Highlights and challenges of 2020-21

New Chief Municipal Inspector

Michael Stefanovic AM started as Chief Municipal Inspector (CMI) in April 2021. Mr Stefanovic has 35 years of experience undertaking complex investigations in high-risk environments both within Australia and abroad. He was admitted as a Member of the Order of Australia for his significant service.

An expert in his field, having led teams specialising in fraud, corruption and misconduct investigations with the World Bank in Washington DC, he also served as the Director of the Investigations Division at the United Nations in New York.

Michael started his career in Victoria Police and served for 14 years in various roles, attaining the rank of sergeant. He has lectured at the NSW Police College and was Director of Investigations for the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants.

Michael is a sessional member of the Victorian Police Registration and Service Board. He holds an Associate Diploma in Police Studies, a Bachelor of Arts – Police Studies, a Graduate Diploma in Organisational Behaviour, a Master of Arts – Police Studies and a Master of Laws – International Criminal Law.

Ongoing impact of COVID-19 on operations

Travel restrictions due to COVID-19 impacted the ability for investigators to conduct in-person interviews, consequently extending the time frame for the completion of investigations. COVIDSafe working practices impacted on complex investigations at three regional councils and the planned reviews of Yarriambiack and West Wimmera councils’ compliance with findings from investigations in 2018– 19.

Our team faced challenges when transitioning to working from home but set up online working groups dedicated to election complaints. Inspectorate staff dealt with an average of 36 complaints a day during the council election period, double the number of complaints from the 2016 election period.

Complaint Management System (CMS)

The current Lotus Notes-based CMS has reached the end of its lifecycle and is no longer supported by the Victorian Government IT provider, CenITex. Producing investigation reports and statistical analysis using the

current CMS is labour intensive and replacing the system is an urgent priority.

Work has commenced replacing the CMS with a fit-for-purpose system. The Inspectorate is working closely with technical experts from the Department of Justice and Community Safety to identify alternative systems.

Parliamentary privilege

Unlike other Victorian integrity agencies, reports published by the Inspectorate are not tabled in Parliament and subject to parliamentary privilege. This can delay the publishing of investigation findings while the Inspectorate responds to information requests from stakeholders and seeks legal advice prior to publication.

A major investigation - completed by late 2020 - has required the engagement of legal counsel to assist with concerns over the publication of the investigation outcomes

New legislation

The Local Government Act 2020 provisions commenced in four separate tranches. The first two tranches came into effect on 6 April 2020 and 1 May 2020. The third tranche commenced on 24 October 2020 and included qualification of councillors, strategic planning and budget processes, gifts, conflict of interest, personal interests returns and improper conduct. The fourth and final tranche commenced on 1 July 2021.