Local Government Integrity Working Group

Update November 2022

LG Professionals WA has long had a strong, strategic, commitment to maintaining and improving integrity within the local government sector.  To this end, establishing a consultative mechanism to share and review information which promotes policy coherence aimed at ethics and integrity advancement and misconduct prevention has been an important goal.  This ambition was realised last year with the formation of the Local Government Integrity Working Group (LGIWG).

The Group was established comprising representatives from the Public Sector Commission, WA Local Government Association, Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, and Local Government Professionals WA.

Following a recent article in Statewide by Dan Volaric, (former) Executive Director Integrity and Risk, Public Sector Commission and a webinar on integrity matters, the LGIWG is pleased to provide this update to members on the progress of its initiatives. 

2021 Integrity Frameworks and Local Government Application
In December 2021 the Commission released a range of integrity framework resources for all public authorities.  These comprehensive resources, including a template and guide, help authorities develop integrity frameworks, or evaluate and strengthen an existing framework here.  

Whilst local governments are not compelled to develop their own Integrity Framework the Commission recommends all public authorities give consideration to developing and implementing one.  Frameworks help to identify and coordinate an authority’s approach to promoting integrity and preventing misconduct, assisting oversight and informing stakeholders about the authority’s approach to integrity. 

The LGIWG has been working with the City of Joondalup to develop an Integrity Framework which might be used as a reference for others to utilise in the development of their own.  It is hoped this will lead to the sharing of integrity-based information, documents, and best practices to enhance integrity within the sector.  

A copy of the City of Joondalup Integrity Framework is available here. A copy of the City’s accompanying Integrity Action Plan is available on request by contacting [email protected].  Integrity Frameworks have also been established by the City of South Perth here and City of Stirling here which are also excellent references.

Local Government Inquiries – Lessons Learned
The LGIWG recognises that in Inquiry or audit reports there are often recommendations that are suggested that could apply to the whole sector, however, responsibility for gathering and sifting through these recommendations is often unclear.  

The DLGSC has been collating these recommendations to identify a list of priority integrity issues the Department would like examined.  The LGIWG is looking forward to giving consideration to these priority matters on behalf of the sector.  In the meantime, you will have noticed the DLGSC providing more Local Government Alerts to raise awareness of integrity and compliance issues which is very much welcomed.

State of the WA Government Sector Report 
The Commission’s annual State of the Sector Report is always interesting reading highlighting integrity issues relevant to the public and local government sectors. This year’s report will be released soon here.

Code of Conduct Survey and Guidelines
LG Professionals WA conducted a survey in late 2021 aimed at collecting data from local governments to understand issues around dealing with complaints against elected members under the new regulatory framework.  The results of this survey have previously been reported to members.

As a result of the survey the DLGSC undertook two ‘feedback labs’ to develop a shared understanding of key issues and how best practice approaches might be shared and implemented.  The LGIWG has been involved in the development of practical guidelines to assist local governments manage code of conduct breach allegations which are proposed to be released following resolution of the role of the proposed Local Government Inspector under the local government reforms.

Accountable and Ethical Decision-Making Training Materials Review 
The Commission has advised AEDM training materials are currently being reviewed as part of a wider review of its integrity education resources.  It is anticipated that these will be completed by the end of the year.  LG Professionals WA is currently examining options to ensure all local governments will have access to these tools and training for AEDM.

Current training materials are available here

Local Government Culture Projects 

It has been pleasing to see Local Government Culture Projects being undertaken in Victoria here and Tasmania designed to understand the factors influencing culture and conduct within local government and identify opportunities and initiatives the sector can implement to improve culture and conduct.
WALGA has been undertaking its own culture project in partnership with PwC and this project is aimed at providing a platform for the local government sector to identify and take ownership of a positive and inclusive culture that will improve governance and build public trust. Elected Member forums have been conducted on the project, and project outcomes are now available from WALGA which should be of interest to all local governments.

Ravensthorpe Interim Report

The LGIWG is enquiring whether there will be a final CCC Report of Misconduct at the Shire of Ravensthorpe (Interim Report here) following the prosecution of the former CEO in order that lessons learned can be shared with the sector.  

Reporting and Public Interest Disclosures
The LGIWG has discussed the importance of reporting to detect wrongdoing, including misconduct in local government. 
Further to this it is important for local governments to have reporting pathways in place. One way to report certain types of information is through the public interest disclosure process. It is a good time for local government to check they are meeting their requirements under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2003. This includes preparing and publishing internal PID procedures and designating at least one PID officer to receive disclosures. The Commission provides useful resources – available here - to help you meet these requirements and conducts education sessions for new PID Officers. 

Revised Investigative Processes 
The DLGSC has been revising its investigative processes which have been motivated (in part) by the timeframes experienced in conducting reviews and the desire to shorten them.  The LGIWG is pleased to understand that investigative manuals are in the final stages of review by the DLGSCI; all current inquiries are pending completion; and that Standards Panel timing of processing complaints has been improved.

Member’s Feedback 

LG Professionals WA and the LGIWG would be pleased to hear from members on any ideas and initiatives to help strengthen integrity within the sector.

LGIWG Members
Jamie Parry (Chair, Local Government Professionals WA)
Ian Cowie (Board member, Local Government Professionals WA)
Candy Choo (Chief Executive Officer, Local Government Professionals WA)
Wayne Scheggia (Policy Advisor, Local Government Professionals WA)
Nick Sloan (Chief Executive Officer, WALGA)
Tony Brown (Executive Manager Governance & Organisational Services, WALGA)
Tim Fraser (Executive Director Local Government, Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries)
Kirsty Martin (A/Director Policy and Legislation Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries)
Melissa Watson (Manager Integrity Promotion and Review, Public Sector Commission)