Report finds dysfunction, failures at City of Perth

The final report of the long-running inquiry into the City of Perth paints a picture of dysfunction, poor leadership, rampant factionalism, and an organisation wracked by cultural and systemic failings.

It also lays bare a culture of self-interest and lack of accountability, and carries important lessons for all local government in WA, local government minister David Templeman says.

Tony Power

The City was suspended on March 2, 2018 because of “ongoing and serious governance issues” and an inquiry, led by barrister Tony Power, was established the following month.

His four volume, 2,000 page document tabled in parliament this week marks the conclusion of the most extensive inquiry of its kind ever conducted in WA.

It contains over 20 findings and 350 recommendations, which the minister says have implications across the sector.

The inquiry also identified 135 matters that required referral to the ATO, WA police and the AFP, Mr Templeman said.

‘Wracked by widespread failings’

In his report, Mr Power says the inquiry made it clear that the City was “wracked by widespread cultural and systemic failings” and plagued by poor governance and dysfunction which provided “fertile ground” for greed, incompetence and mismanagement.

“This failure was the direct result of poor governance and poor decision making at may levels, lack of integrity and teamwork in the City’s leadership, and widespread cultural and systemic failings in both the Council and the administration of the City.”

Among the findings are that councillors used their position to advance personal business interests and used sham leases to become eligible to stand for election. The report also raised questions about the allocation of grants and found serious flaws in the procurement process.

“This is an important document that has learnings for the whole sector,” Mr Templeman said.

“It reveals the implications of what can happen when governance breaks down and members overreach their responsibilities and interfere in the administration.”

Mr Power said the decision to suspend Council was “inevitably and undoubtedly justified” and he would have dismissed the Council if it were up to him.

The city has 35 days to give its response to Mr Power’s recommendations.

Commissioners welcome report

City of Perth Commissioner Andrew Hammond welcomed the report.

“For two years, Commissioners have been focused on re-establishing the City of Perth as an exemplar of local government,” Mr Hammond said in a statement.

He said the City had been on a journey of transformation but there was still room for improvement.

“We will use the findings to inform any additional reform efforts that are required to re-establish community trust in the City of Perth,” he said.

The damning report comes after the Local Government Review Act Panel released its final report last week.

Both reports will feed into the review of WA’s local government laws, Mr Templeman said.

He said the legislation would be amended to “put the relationship between elected members and the administration beyond doubt”.

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