Governance arrangements

Governance arrangements are the necessary procedures and monitoring systems in place to ensure that council is performing all of its functions to the required standard and in accordance with its legal obligations. Good decision making processes and therefore good governance share several characteristics. All have a positive effect on various aspects of local government including consultation, policies and practices, meeting procedures, service quality protocols, councillor and officer conduct, role clarification, leadership and good working relationships.

As part of the review, the Inspectorate identified seven governance areas where improvement is recommended. At the outset of the examination, council acknowledged that improvements are required in engaging staff at all levels to ensure they are aware of their legislative requirements and responsibilities. It was accepted that the executive leadership team needs to drive these improvements.

Governance schedule

As part of meeting governance obligations, many councils maintain governance schedules to facilitate accountability for key dates throughout the year such as interest return deadlines, mayoral election periods and other relevant time-critical legislative requirements.

Council does not have a current governance schedule. The governance officer is the key person responsible for meeting legislative requirements, however a number of governance functions are handled by the Corporate Support and OH&S officer based at the Kaniva office. It was identified that neither the governance officer or the corporate support officer have been provided with clearly defined and documented roles and responsibilities. This could lead to key legislative obligations being overlooked.

The governance officer maintains a series of self-created hard copy folders to act as guidance for that particular role, however the Corporate Support officer does not apply the same system. The documenting of key governance responsibilities requires a whole of organisation approach, particularly where key tasks are split between staff at different locations.


  • A whole of organisation governance schedule should be developed that clearly outlines all legislative requirements and designated roles and responsibilities.
  • The roles undertaken by the governance officer and the corporate support officer should be reviewed to ensure there is clarity of responsibilities for all governance requirements and tasks.
  • The roles must be closely aligned to ensure any advice provided to councillors is clear, direct and consistent, irrespective of which officer provides the advice.
  • Council is advised to review better practice examples of governance schedules, such as the statutory obligations template provided by Hobsons Bay Council.

Policy framework

Every organisation requires up to date policies and procedures to function efficiently and effectively. They are particularly important for local government, as they promote consistency across the organisation and maintain transparency for council officers, councillors and residents. Sound policies mitigate the risk to council, and provide a framework that promotes accountability across the organisation.

It was confirmed that an organisational policy review was commenced in early 2017 to ensure that all policies were up to date, and incorporated any relevant legislative amendments that had come into effect in the previous two years. A template was also created for new policies to ensure consistency and uniformity across the organisation. Previous reviews had only been conducted in an ad-hoc manner, lacking a thorough and structured approach.

The majority of the policies available on the council website were current, however very few carried the ‘next review date’ on the actual policy, creating the risk of a lack of accountability, and that the policy may be overlooked during future reviews. Councils often use a ‘master list’ to ensure policies are checked and updated on specific dates, and this mitigates the risk of policies not reflecting current legislation.


Council should continue to update council policies, and include a ‘next review date’ on each policy subject to review, to provide accountability and assist in ensuring they are appropriately reviewed within legislative timeframes.

Record keeping

The Public Records Act requires the effective management of records made or received by a public officer – which includes council staff - in the course of their duties. Record keeping practices that meet legislative requirements ensures records are kept secure and allows for them to be made readily available to the public and other government entities, which is an important function of councils.

The importance of these issues was highlighted in 2017, when an Inspectorate investigation revealed that record keeping at Central Goldfields Shire Council had a major impact on the council’s ability to function effectively for the community.

The review of record keeping at West Wimmera found that:

  • council has a record management system RecFind, which has been in place since 2009. Any staff member is required to input information into the system if their document requires further action.
  • there is no specific training provided in relation to using the system effectively. Staff are provided with a ‘cheat sheet’ that provides them with limited advice on the use of the system.
  • council provides continual reminders for staff to use RecFind.
  • the Inspectorate was advised that less than 25 percent of staff were using RecFind, with approximately 15 per cent of those staff actually being fully compliant with its use.
  • staff stated there were very few records/documents for contracts, tenders or contract awarding in the records management system.
  • though documents are generally considered to be secure on council premises, there are limited cabinets or storage spaces that can be locked.
  • most staff members keep their emails and attachments saved as email records. If a staff member leaves council their email record is deleted after three months. If none of those emails records are saved to RecFind all of those records are permanently lost.

In general, the Inspectorate found that staff are willing to support change, to ensure that all council records are in accordance with council policy and the Public Records Act.

However, the examination revealed a lack of staff awareness about how to use the RecFind system and a general reluctance to use it.

This continues to make it difficult for staff to locate records that should be stored electronically and can also impact on external document requests such as audits or Freedom of Information.


  • Council should facilitate an independent assessment of current record keeping practices, and ensure the findings are promptly implemented.
  • Council officers should be made aware of their obligations under the Public Records Act in relation to the keeping and storing of council records, and that they are required to record all council related correspondence in the records management system.
  • Mandatory staff training should be carried out on a regular basis to ensure staff are familiar with the document management system. Staff should also be educated about the relevant record management policies and legislation.

Audit Committee

An independent Audit Committee is a vital component of a good corporate governance structure.

In the context of local government, the committee is an advisory body that typically:

  • focuses on issues relevant to the integrity of financial reporting
  • monitors risk management systems, the internal control framework, compliance and audit activities
  • liaises between internal and external auditors and management.

The objectives of the Audit Committee were clearly set out in the charter. To provide clarity, it also contained an explanation of the relationship between the committee, the council and the internal/external auditors. The current independent members of the committee are suitably qualified, and include a staff member from neighbouring Hindmarsh Shire Council providing local government expertise.

The committee has held the required number of meetings per year, covering various topics including the draft annual budget, rate capping variation report, financial performance report, strategic resource plan and fraud and corruption control policy and procedures. The committee also conducts a self-assessment against the requirements of the charter.

While the committee had wide ranging oversight of risk issues, the minutes reviewed appeared to lack suitable detail of any actions taken or to be taken from the meeting.


  • The minutes of each audit committee meeting should contain sufficient detail in terms of what has been reviewed and clearly outline any subsequent actions to be taken.

Special committees

Councils create special committees to assist in the management of specific projects, initiatives and selected municipal assets. Special committees are required to have current, authorised Instruments of Delegation to ensure they act within their regulated powers, are properly constituted and limited to their purpose.

Council currently has two special committees: an internal Economic Development committee, and the Kaniva Museum and Historical Collection committee. A review is to take place to determine the ongoing requirement for the latter to remain a special committee.

The examination revealed that the Instruments of Delegation for both committees do not carry a signing/common seal date to confirm commencement. The committees are authorised by a resolution of council on 19 September 2013, which does not meet the requirement of section 86(6).

Both committees have met the minimum meeting requirements as per the existing delegation. Two of the four sets of minutes provided to the council for the Kaniva Museum contain a current bank balance, however it does not appear that the requirement for an Annual General Meeting to be held, that provides an annual report, and annual financial report, according to the delegation, has been met.


Kaniva Museum and Historical Collection Special Committee

  • Conduct a review to determine whether there is a need for the committee to remain as a section 86 committee.
  • If it is to continue,
    • Council must have the Instrument of Delegation authorised by a resolution of council to ensure it complies with section 86(6) of the Act.
    • Provide appropriate training to the committee members in regard to their roles and responsibilities as committee members.

Economic Development Special Committee

  • Council must have the Instrument of Delegation authorised by a resolution of council to ensure it complies with section 86(6) of the Act.

Complaints management

An effective complaints management system provides council with a consistent and uniform approach, assuring complainants that all allegations are dealt with in a suitable manner.

Well-handled complaints can restore trust with residents when things go wrong and lead to better services, decisions and outcomes for the community.

It was alleged that there is a reluctance by council to deal with complaints relating to councillors and council staff made by private persons, particularly anonymous complaints. There is no capacity in the online complaints system to accept anonymous complaints.

The online complaint system allows for complaints about council assets or services such as roads and footpaths but provides no indication if the complaint form can be used to make a complaint against a staff member or councillor.

Records also indicate that the majority of complaints are not followed up or actioned. Some complaints are closed after a period of time with no justification or details as to the reason why complaints were closed. There is also no central register for complaints to ensure monitoring and accountability.

The Customer Service Policy outlines the process for lodging a complaint but does not provide advice about how to make a complaint against a councillor and also provides no information about making anonymous complaints.


  • Council should maintain a register of complaints.
  • Council should update the complaint section within the Customer Service Policy to include the process for making a complaint against a councillor, and also the process for making a complaint anonymously, as well as including details of how the council will deal with the complaint.
  • Council must review its internal policies for the recording, handling and finalisation of complaints to ensure complaints are actioned and finalised with justification.
  • Council should review the Ombudsman Victoria report on complaint handling to ensure that the practices at council comply with best practice.


Under the Local Government Act and a wide range of other Acts and Regulations, council, the CEO and the municipal building surveyor can delegate powers, duties and functions to special committees and council staff. The delegation process is essential to ensure actions and functions are lawfully exercised.

The examination revealed that a review was undertaken of the delegation to the CEO from the council, having been authorised via a resolution of council on 19 April 2017 in accordance with the requirements of the Act. While not legislated, the sub-delegation from the CEO to council staff was also done via resolution of council on 19 April 2017.

It was also confirmed that the council subscribes to the industry standard practice for maintaining delegations.

There are no recommendations for this component.