The City Council of Perth has been slammed as an explosive new report found that the city’s culture has been characterised, by dysfunction, self-interest, greed, incompetence, complacency and a lack of transparency and accountability.
Tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the two-year inquiry into Perth City Council heard 547 hours of evidence from 104 witnesses, examined 4.3 million records and made more than 250 findings and 320 recommendations.
Established in April 2018 after the City’s council was suspended in that year, it found that there were widespread failings in both the Council and the administration.
“As this report makes clear, the City was wracked by widespread cultural and systematic failings in both the Council and the Administration,” the report said, adding that council members and employees had put their own interests ahead of those whom they were supposed to have served.
“This failure was the direct result of poor governance and poor decision making at many levels, a lack of integrity and teamwork in the City’s leadership and widespread cultural and systematic failings in both the Council and the Administration of the City.
“When the Council was suspended on 2 March 2018, the situation had deteriorated to the point where neither it nor the Administration had the capacity to provide good government into the foreseeable future.
In its report, the inquiry found:
- Widespread manipulation of the electoral process including sham leases to enfranchise a candidate or voter, falsified corporate nominee processes and false complaints to have legitimate corporate nominees struck from the electoral roll.
- Poor planning decisions motivated by self-interest.
- Failure to disclose financial or other interests and misuse of trappings/entitlements for personal benefit.
- Acceptance of gifts from organisations who received sponsorship and grants and along with efforts to allocate City money to organisations with whom council members had a personal connection.
- Massive structural weakness in systems of financial management and planning.
- Appalling procurement practices which created possibilities for fraud and corruption.
On the issue of procurement of public works, the report cited numerous instances of poor practices.
A tendering process to supply irrigation services to the City was riddled with flaws. These ranged from a failure by the evaluation panel to properly apply compliance criteria to tenders they evaluated to possible misconduct by the project officer in connection with a pricing analysis which turned out to be decisive in the decision to award the contract.
Similar complaints where made by an unsuccessful tenderer for street and path works – this time the CEO referring the complaint to the head of directorate responsible for the tender, who in turn involved the subject of the complaint in preparation of the City’s response.
In another case, an unrealistic timeframe was applied to the refurbishment of the ground floor of Council House – the unrealistic timeframe appearing to be motivated by reasons other than the proper and orderly conduct of a construction project
This was compounded by those managing the project having limited training in regard to planning and failing to obtain planning approval, heritage advice or building permits for works.
On procurement and planning, meanwhile, refusal of a development application for a shop at the Adagio apartment complex appeared to have been made in expectation that the refusal would result in votes from objectors at a forthcoming election rather than on a proper planning basis.
In another case, Council refused to give reasoning for its decisions to reject a sponsorship proposal to the rejuvenate Piccadilly Theatre premises in the City of Perth in circumstances where there was lobbying against the proposal by a prominent businessperson.
In its report, the Inquiry made 320 recommendations.
These included a single, mandatory and comprehensive Code of Conduct for all council members and employees of local governments continuing professional development for council members and executives.
In a statement, the City of Perth welcomed the report’s release and said the City would provide more detailed comments once it has had an opportunity to study the findings.
“For two years, Commissioners have been focused on re-establishing the City of Perth as an exemplar of local government,” City of Perth Chair Commissioner Andrew Hammond said.
“The City has been on an extensive journey of transformation. It has established stable and aligned leadership, developed our foundational strategic framework, placed stronger focus on stakeholder relations and re‐established good governance for the community.
“This said, we acknowledge that the journey is far from over and there is still room for improvement. Once we have read the full report, we will use the findings to inform any additional reform efforts that are required to re-establish community trust in the City of Perth”
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