Autumn 2019 - Local government integrity matters

David Wolf, Chief Municipal Inspector

Welcome to the first of our 2019 newsletter publications which highlights some of the recent work by the Inspectorate team and features an article from our archives on Special Committees, an area in which similar issues are still prevalent across the sector. This edition also provides information on two cases of public interest that are now finalised, one with an important prosecution outcome and another with a focus on guidance and education to prevent offences in the future.

From my perspective, the articles on 'fostering an optimal relationship between councillors and administration' and 'managing the employment cycle of a council CEO' are incredibly important for the local government sector. For councils to operate effectively, they must have the confidence of their community and maintain a reputation for being transparent, fair and accountable. Often this reputation is harmed by a breakdown in relationships within council and across the organisation, which invariably manifests itself in the public domain. A healthy professional relationship between the council, the Chief Executive Officer and the administration is a constant factor we see in high-performing councils and these articles provide some practical considerations for developing and maintaining a good working environment.

Finally, I want to mention the passing of the Integrity and Accountability Legislation Amendment (Public Interest Disclosure, Oversight and Independence) Act 2019, which will permit my office to investigate public interest disclosures referred to us by IBAC. This is an important reform as it eliminates potential crossover or duplication of investigations by broadening the Inspectorate’s remit to include public interest disclosure investigations that relate to local government. My office, the IBAC and Ombudsman will work closely on the implementation of these reforms to further improve the integrity system for local government in Victoria.

March 2019

City of Melbourne voting matter closed

The Inspectorate has completed its investigation into the alleged fraudulent submission of ballot papers for the Melbourne Lord Mayor by-election in 2018.

The investigation focused on allegations that real estate agents and property managers filled out ballot papers on behalf of interstate and overseas landlords contrary to the law. The investigation found that 41 ballot papers were marked by a person other than the registered voter. The property owners, who in all cases were found to be international owners, had authorised property agents to manage all aspects of their property, however, this cannot include casting a vote under Victorian electoral laws.

Importantly, the investigation found that the 41 ballot papers were detected by VEC processes and excluded from the ballot count and therefore not affecting the outcome.

While an offence against the electoral provisions of the Act was substantiated, the Inspectorate opted not to pursue prosecution and instead has issued formal warnings to five people and also provided guidance to ensure property managers understand and follow relevant electoral rules. In addition, the Inspectorate will work with the Victorian Electoral Commission to provide clarity for property managers and agents for future elections where similar circumstances exist.

Integrity Act broadens Inspectorate responsibilities

A new integrity act that broadens the powers and responsibility of the Inspectorate has pas