The Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) has recommended stricter governance around the role and performance of political advisors appointed to local councils.
The recommendations arise out of Operation Yabber, an investigation into allegations of corruption in the Gold Coast City Council.
In a report tabled in Parliament today, the CCC drew attention to the potential for politically appointed advisors to council to compromise the efficient and effective carrying out of council business.
Operation Yabber highlighted three areas of concern for the CCC:
- Failures to declare and properly manage conflicts of interest, particularly those involving the Mayor’s Chief of Staff in relation to private companies
- The Mayor’s intervention in a disciplinary process to effectively protect the Chief of Staff from disciplinary action initiated by the CEO, and
- The manner and nature of the interaction of the Chief of Staff with other council officers with respect to the carrying out of council business.
CCC Chairperson Alan MacSporran QC said integrity in local government has been a focus of the CCC for some considerable time and Operation Yabber identified the need for further reforms to reduce corruption risks.
“Local councils are responsible for providing us with important services and infrastructure that we use every day, and I know the community wants those services delivered within a framework of ethical decision-making, good governance and accountability,” Mr MacSporran said.
“Whilst Operation Yabber did not identify such serious and systemic issues found in recent CCC investigations into other councils, it did once again highlight the impacts of not properly declaring and managing conflicts of interests.”
The report identified the risks involved when political staff/advisors, whether at the urging of a mayor or councillor or on their own initiative, inappropriately interfered in council business.
To ensure stricter governance and accountability in local government, the CCC is recommending amendments to the Local Government Act 2009 that will:
- clarify the responsibilities of mayors and councillors for the management of their staff/advisors and their adherence to codes of conduct, and
- ensure that mayoral directions (under section 170 of the Act) cannot be used to undermine the authority of chief executive officers to carry out their responsibilities.
No criminal charges have resulted from Operation Yabber. The CCC has referred some matters relating to the Mayor of the Gold Coast City Council to the Office of the Independent Assessor and recommended the Gold Coast City Council CEO consider matters relating to the Mayor’s Chief of Staff. It is important to note that no adverse inference should be made about these matters whilst they remain unresolved.
The CCC’s report Operation Yabber – an investigation into allegations relating to the Gold Coast City Council is available on the CCC website.
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