The Inspectorate is the dedicated integrity agency for local government in Victoria. The Chief Municipal Inspector (CMI) leads the Inspectorate and has powers as set out in the Local Government Act 1989 (Act) to enable the Inspectorate to examine, investigate and prosecute any matter relating to a Council’s operations and any breaches of the Act.
An anonymous complaint was received in June 2018, making a series of allegations that related to possible offences and breaches of the Act and governance and operational failings at the shire. Inspectorate staff attended council offices in September 2018, April 2019 and May 2019 to request documents and interview council staff, culminating in a coordinated interview of 20 staff from the Hopetoun depot in August 2019. The Inspectorate conducted a comprehensive investigation into the specific allegations related to the council, which focused on the key topics of staff use of plant and equipment, and mismanagement of council assets including the unauthorised use or sale of council equipment, sale of land, rates recovery and corporate credit cards.
Alongside the investigation, the Inspectorate also examined governance and operational matters including asset, financial and employment management arrangements. The examination took into account findings from a 2012 review, relevant audits by other government agencies, internal audits and the actions subsequently taken by the council.
The Inspectorate did not examine all areas of council activity but concentrated on a number of risk areas or where particular allegations were made.Advertisements were placed in local newspapers appealing for public assistance with the Inspectorate’s examination