- 9 Feb 2023
Message from the Chief Municipal Inspector
It has been a busy and challenging year for the Inspectorate.
While the general election period ended in October 2020, we continued to receive complaints and enquiries and investigate election-related matters well into the 2021–22
During 2021–22 our governance examination program took on the huge task of reviewing personal interest declarations for 650 councillors from 78 councils. This revealed a lower level of compliance than expected and resulted in a number of recommendations being communicated to the local government sector to raise the level of compliance. We prosecuted one former councillor for persistent breaches of the personal interests returns provisions.
Holding people to account for breaches of and offences against the Local Government Act 2020 continues to be one of our greatest challenges. Prosecutions are expensive, time-consuming and will be pursued if it is in the public interest to do so. However, we are working with the Victorian Government to find alternative modes to address breaches and offences against the Act.
There have been some teething issues with the 2020 Act and we were required to seek guidance from the court about our powers. A Supreme Court ruling confirmed that we have the power to make orders to have a councillor stood down while criminal proceedings are continuing.
The restrictions on movement and the requirement to work from home as part of the CovidSafe settings challenged our staff again during 2021–22. Visits to councils and participation in events – previously a big part of our information gathering and guidance and education for the sector – was limited until the easing of restrictions enabled face-to-face interactions once again.
We presented to councillors and governance staff at councils including Shepparton, Nillumbik, Wodonga and Murrindindi, and to online audiences at sector representative bodies such as the Victorian Local Governance Association, the Municipal Association of Victoria and the Western Australian Local Government Professionals.
Despite working from home restrictions (and for some – dealing with home schooling) our phone lines remained open and we handled an increased volume of online complaints.
I am proud of the resilience and professionalism shown by the LGI team during throughout this challenging period and am honoured to present to you the results of their efforts in the form of the Local Government Inspectorate’s annual report for 2021–22.
Michael Stefanovic AM