Wynne announces spot audits, investigations for Brimbank

By Rob O’Brien
Spot audits and monthly reporting will form part of the State Government’s response to the Ombudsman’s recent report on the conduct of Brimbank City Council.

Accepting the findings of the Victorian Ombudsman George Brouwer the Minister for Local Government, Richard Wynne, announced that a dedicated investigative unit within Local Government Victoria will work on monitoring the council.

“The Government accepts in full the recommendations contained within the report and they will be implemented,” Wynne said.

“Local Government plays an essential role in the life of our communities and the people of Victoria need to have the upmost faith in their elected representatives.

“We will take decisive action to address this behaviour.”

The Victorian Ombudsman found the Labor-run Brimbank City Council to be “dysfunctional and marked by in-fighting and interpersonal conflicts”.

Brouwer took aim at councillors’ conflict of interest, which “included placing their private interests first and using their positions to obtain confidential information”.

“It was clear that the council had split into two groups, the ‘ruling faction’ and the minority councillors, and that the council was unable to govern as a whole,” the Ombudsman said.

“One councillor referred to there being a ‘cold war impasse’ between the factions since May 2007. This impeded the council’s ability to function effectively.”
The report found that the council was influenced by individuals who held no elected local government office, including individuals prevented from holding public office because of criminal convictions.
Wynne said an Inspector of Municipal Administration, who will report directly to him, had already been appointed to monitor the council.

“The Inspector will initially be assigned until the next council election in November 2012, after which a decision will be made as to whether the monitoring should be extended.”

In response to the Ombudsman’s recommendations, Wynne said Local Government Victoria would undertake the investigations recommended by the Ombudsman as well as:

•    Complete the process of establishing a dedicated investigative unit within Local Government Victoria noting that two key appointments, a Manager of Investigations and a Senior Inspector have been recruited already;

•    Complete the already commenced implementation of a documented process to record the formal assessment of complaints; and

•    Examine the best way to provide all councils guidance on remuneration packages of outgoing CEOs.

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