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Inside track: Local Government

08 September 2021

#Local Government, #Government, #Workplace Relations & Safety

Published by:

Joseph Sherman

Inside track: Local Government

Crime and Corruption Commission’s audit plan – a ‘heads-up’ for government entities

The use of fuel by local council employees is one area under the microscope in a new audit program conducted by the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC). The CCC is the independent statutory body responsible for combatting and investigating major crime and corruption in the Queensland public sector. 

On 9 August 2021, the CCC released its biennial publication, Corruption Audit Plan – 2021-2023 (Audit Plan). The Audit Plan outlines the CCC’s program of audits between 2021 and 2023 and flags the following key areas the anti-corruption body will focus on:

  • misuse of public resources
  • recruitment – the selection process and employment screening
  • complaint management process.

Misuse of public resources

This audit has already commenced, with completion expected by the end of 2021. Bundaberg Regional, Ipswich City and Whitsunday Regional councils are in the spotlight while the State Government Departments of Education, Police and Environment and Science are also being audited.

The term ‘public resources’ covers all forms of ratepayer or taxpayer-funded resources, but the plan specifically states that the audit uses “data analytics to detect fuel consumption fraud in local councils”.

Recruitment

Nepotism and undue influence in council and state government selection processes will be audited in 2022, with Fraser Coast and Cassowary Coast Regional councils, along with the Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water, to be looked at by the Commission.

The plan states that “Employing people, including family members, without a genuine merit-based process may affect productivity, lead to inefficient use of limited resources, and create a poor workplace culture.”

The audit will also examine employment screening processes in the relevant agencies.

Complaint management practices

This audit is scheduled for between September 2022 and March 2023 and will examine both workplace complaints and investigations, along with the appropriateness of disciplinary decisions. The agencies to be audited have yet to be decided.

Significance

The Audit Plan lists various government departments, councils, government-owned corporations, universities and statutory authorities as specific entities that may be audited or are currently being audited in relation to specific focus areas.

However, the scope of the Audit Plan is not limited to the named entities. The CCC will also conduct an annual “dynamic prevention project”, which will be determined by the CCC as the need arises. 

Previous audits

At the conclusion of an audit, the CCC may produce summary reports that outline the audit’s findings and recommendations. You can access the CCC’s public reports on previous audits on their website (2016 – 2017, 2017 – 2019, 2019 – 2021).

The summary audit reports can assist government entities in preparing for upcoming audits as part of the Audit Plan. For example, entities that may be audited as part of the recruitment audit should refer to the CCC’s previous summary report regarding corrupt conduct in recruitment and selection activities, released following an audit in 2017.

The CCC’s previous focus areas include research fraud, timesheet and leave fraud, local government procurement, assessments of corrupt conduct and gifts and payments from industry.

Tips for government entities

The Audit Plan should put government entities on notice regarding the CCC’s focus areas for the next two years.

Named entities must ensure that their internal policies and procedures are robust and are being followed, particularly in relation to the focus areas. Notwithstanding this, the inclusion of the annual dynamic prevention project in the Audit Plan means that all government entities could be audited and reinforces the importance of maintaining practical and up-to-date procedures.

Holding Redlich are experts in public service law. If you have any questions or need assistance in preparing for an audit, please get in touch with us.

Authors: Edmund Burke & Joseph Sherman

In the media

Commonwealth

Launch of the 2021 Australian Local Government Climate Review
Ironbark Sustainability and ICLEI Oceania have launched the 2021 Australian Local Government Climate Review.
The Review is based on a wide-ranging survey to better understand local climate change targets, actions, strategies and policies. The survey found that 83 per cent of respondents reported that climate change has already impacted upon their local community or council operations (26 August 2021).

The councils leading the charge on climate change to reach net zero emissions by 2030
As the climate wars drag on at a federal level, local councils across the country are taking the initiative and doing it for themselves. The Australian Local Government Association wants a $200 million federal fund over four years to help more of the country's 537 councils adapt to climate change (22 August 2021).  More...

Resources for digital transformation still an issue for LG
Councils want to digitally transform to improve customer satisfaction and employee productivity but lack the wherewithal, a new survey suggests. Commissioned by Local Government Professionals Australia (LGPro) and software provider Technology One, the survey found over 80 percent of respondents rated digital transformation as a high priority (20 August 2021).  More...

Inland Rail consultation ‘a joke’, councils say
The body responsible for delivering the Inland Rail must consult more closely with local government following a litany of complaints from councils across NSW and Queensland (16 August 2021).  More...

Cth land acquisitions framework to get red-tape treatment
Government-to-government property transactions will be streamlined under proposed legislative reforms agreed to by the Commonwealth this week. Among other things, the review recommended that Section 40 of the LAA should be amended to enable interests in land to be acquired by agreement from state, territory, and local governments, including acquisitions of interests in land in a public park (20 August 2021).  More...

Victoria

Council watchdog sees rise in vexatious complaints
Victoria's Local Government Inspectorate says too much of its time is being taken up by civil matters, council service complaints and code of conduct issues. In most cases complainants made their complaints in good faith and had misinterpreted the Local Government Act (27 August 2021).  More...

PwC hired to review Victorian council culture
The Victorian government has commissioned a review that aims to make local government a safer space for women. The ‘local government culture project’ will look at the history of and influences on culture in the state’s councils (27 August 2021).  More...

Monash to support uptake of microgrids across Victoria
The Microgrid Electricity Market Operator ‘toolbox’ comprises a step-by-step journey on how to develop a microgrid – from planning to operations – to help guide precincts, businesses and communities through the process. Monash is supporting businesses and councils across Victoria to increase uptake, including the Yarra Ranges Council, which has a goal of achieving 100 per cent renewable energy use by 2030 as part of its Liveable Climate Plan (24 August 2021).  More...

Property Council welcomes Victoria infrastructure strategy
The Property Council of Australia has welcomed Victoria’s recently announced infrastructure strategy which contains 94 recommendations from an independent advisory body guided by nine regional profiles that outlined various regional needs (20 August 2021).  More...

Councils keen on role to assist infrastructure plan delivery
Plans for infrastructure that improves social equity and connectedness and protects natural resources, as outlined in Infrastructure Victoria’s Infrastructure Strategy 2021 – 2051, are welcomed by the MAV. The strategy addresses a range of the infrastructure challenges facing local communities right across Victoria, including addressing public transport need, boosting economic performance and adapting to climate change (20 August 2021).  More...

NSW

NSW Renewable Energy Zone oversubscribed as ROIs close
Expressions of interest for the New England REZ represent more than four times the energy generation needed to build the 8GW zone. Participation in the REZ will be determined via a competitive tender (27 August 2021).  More...

NSW government invites feedback on risk-management rules for councils
New South Wales’ 128 councils will be required to set up a risk-management framework and internal audit function under new draft guidelines released this week. The draft guidelines give the local government sector a strong framework for minimising financial risk and preventing fraud and corruption, according to local government minister Shelley Hancock.(24 August 2021).  More...

Queensland

New Palaszczuk Government regional quarantine facility to keep Queenslanders safe
A dedicated regional quarantine facility will be built at Wellcamp, Toowoomba under a joint agreement between the Palaszczuk Government and the landowner, Wagner Corporation (27 August 2021).  More...

Funding boost for rural border councils to help keep Queensland safe
The rural local governments on the frontline of Queensland’s COVID-19 border closure with New South Wales will be eligible to share in $1 million from the Queensland Government to cover the costs of border control (20 August 2021).  More...

Council draws fire for controversial foreshore development in Cairns' Machans Beach
Angry residents in a Cairns fishing village-style suburb declare no confidence in its council's ability to approve development applications after allowing controversial new townhouses (20 August 2021).  More...

Qld corruption watchdog ‘took sides’ against councillors, inquiry hears
Queensland’s corruption watchdog is under investigation to determine if it misused its powers to get rid of a council as a “gift” to the former CEO. The investigation comes in response to a complaint against the CCC by the state’s peak local government body, LGAQ (18 August 2021).  More...

Councils will not accept any State waste levy proposal that costs households more
Local Government Association of Queensland CEO Greg Hallam said any move by the State to penalise households and tax wheelie bins without properly investing in the industries and technologies needed to help Queenslanders divert more waste from landfill would be strongly opposed by the sector (17 August 2021).  More...

Councillors charged with serious offences should not be stood down: Lobby group
An inquiry has begun into the case of seven sacked Logan councillors, whose fraud charges were ultimately dropped after almost two years (17 August 2021).  More...

Not doing its job: Council watchdog sparks press freedom concerns
Queensland’s Local Government Minister has brushed off concerns about the agency’s actions, which forced a rural newspaper to fight handing over journalists’ notes and recordings (16 August 2021).  More...

In Practice and Courts

Commonwealth

Black Spot Program – about the program
The Australian Government has committed an additional $50 million per year from 2019-20 to the Black Spot Program. Nominations for Black Spot locations are invited from state and territory governments, local councils, community groups and associations, road user groups, industry and individuals (updated 26 August 2021).  More...

Climate resilience strategy consultation
The federal government is developing a new National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy to provide a roadmap towards a climate resilient Australia. The new strategy will: Showcase national adaptation and resilience efforts and Strengthen national coordination to management physical climate impacts, including floods, bushfires, droughts and sea level rise. To provide input to the strategy, complete this survey by, 6 September.
For further information on the strategy visit National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy.

2021 Regional Telecommunications Review
Published as a prelude to the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review, the paper canvasses issues around adequacy, opportunity, and awareness of telco services in both rural, regional and remote areas of Australia. The issues paper, consultation dates, and details on how to make a submission can be found here. Written submissions should be lodged by, 30 September 2021.
23 August 2021 - The Australian Government has released a 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review Issues Paper for public consultation.  More...

NBN Co releases guidelines for Regional Co-Investment Fund
Local governments are being invited to apply to take part in NBN Co’s $300 million Regional Co-investment Fund. Several activities will not be eligible under the fund, including projects that target fewer than 50 premises or are under $500K total build cost. Please review the guidelines to determine eligibility. The closing date for applications is 18 February 2022, with first build estimate requests required no later than 1 October 2021.

Victoria

Plan Melbourne – land use framework 
Plan Melbourne 2017-2050 recognises that more detailed planning is needed for Metropolitan Melbourne to manage growth across the city. It identifies the need for six plans to be developed, providing detailed guidance at a regional level and setting a 30-year vision for each area. To achieve this, the Department of Environment, Water and Planning has developed Melbourne’s Future Planning Framework which is now available for review and feedback (August 2021).

Local government inspectorate: Local government integrity matters
Our winter integrity matters newsletter looks at conflict of interest, personal interest and campaign donations declarations, and unreasonable or vexatious complaints (August 2021).  More...

Reporting on shelters and pounds
To enable data collection and reporting, Section 4 of the Code of Practice for the Management of Dogs and Cats in Shelters and Pounds (the Code) will need to be amended to require shelters and pounds to provide necessary data to the Victorian Government. Animal Welfare Victoria is inviting all stakeholders to complete an Engage Victoria survey to help shape amendments to the Code’s data collection and reporting requirements, which closes 3 September 2021. 

Container deposit scheme
The MAV has welcomed the release of the Victorian Government’s consultation paper on the design of the container deposit scheme (CDS). Following significant advocacy from the MAV, councils, environment groups and others, the State committed to introducing a CDS by 2023 as part of its Recycling Victoria policy.

NSW

Review of the rate peg to include population growth
IPART is seeking feedback and submissions from the public on the review of the rate peg methodology to include population growth. Consultation ends September 2021. The rate peg is based on the annual change in the Local Government Cost Index. The Issues Paper can be found here.  More...

2021 local government elections – updated information for candidates
23 August 2021 updated information is available to help candidates understand their obligations for the local government elections.  More...

Animal welfare reform
The NSW Government is modernising and streamlining NSW’s animal welfare laws, proposing to replace three pieces of outdated legislation with one modern Act that will be easier to understand and follow. The proposed changes are outlined in the Animal Welfare Reform – Discussion Paper, Public consultation will close on Friday 3 September 2021.

Evaluation of 2018 gaming machine reforms
The NSW Government is seeking feedback to evaluate gaming machine reforms introduced in 2018. The NSW Government’s aims of the reforms include a more targeted approach to the allocation of funds generated through a Local Impact Assessment process and the GME leasing scheme Liquor & Gaming NSW has published a discussion paper and is seeking feedback from stakeholders. Consultation closes on 10 September 2021 (24 August 2021).

Industrial lands policy review – Greater Sydney Region
The Greater Sydney Commission is reviewing its Retain and Manage Policy for industrial and urban services lands under the Greater Sydney Region Plan.  More...

Local Government Funding

Applications now open – 2022 Seniors Festival Grants Program
Applications to the 2022 NSW Seniors Festival Grants Program are now open. There is $200,000 in funding available for councils and organisations to run activities for people over 60 during the festival. Applications close on 30 August 2021.  More...

Reminder: 21-01 Transitioning back to in-person council and committee meetings and consultation on proposed changes allowing remote attendance at meetings
The Regulation will be amended while OLG consults on the proposed amendments to the Model Meeting Code to allow councils to give approval for individual (but not all) councillors to attend meetings remotely. The amendments will be temporary and will expire on 31 December 2021.  More...

Draft noise guide for local government
Public consultation closes on 27 September 2021. The draft Guide makes it easier to find information on the legislative framework to manage noise, who is responsible for managing noise, and the options for management. View the Draft Noise Guide for Local Government and frequently asked questions and have your say on the proposed changes.

Queensland

Public consultation: Queensland’s renewable energy zones (QREZ)
Public consultation would be followed by a technical paper later in the year, for feedback from industry and other energy stakeholders on the framework for QREZ design and access. The online survey is open until 30 September 2021.  More...

Works for Queensland projects across the region
The Works for Queensland program supports regional councils to undertake job-creating maintenance and minor infrastructure projects such as parks and playgrounds, community and sports facilities, swimming pools and water play areas, renewable energy initiatives, footpaths, roads and water infrastructure. A further $200 million committed for 2024-27. For more information visit Works for Queensland.

Cases

Hunter v Greater Geelong CC [2021] VCAT 980
Review of land classification (Local Government Act 1989, s183).

Stalvies v Snowy Monaro Regional Council [2021] NSWCATAP 246
APPEALS – error of law – inadequate reasons – taking account of irrelevant considerations – failing to take account of relevant considerations-redetermination GOVERNMENT INFORMATION – information held by local council – communications with local council and local residents – whether personal information – weighing of competing interests for and against disclosure.

Walker v Northern Beaches Council [2021] NSWCATAD 251
ADMINISTRATIVE LAW – access to government information – adequacy of searches ADMININSTRATIVE LAW – access to government information – production of redacted documents – whether public interest considerations against disclosure outweigh public interest considerations in favour of disclosure.

EEC v Federation Council (No 2) [2021] NSWCATAD 241
ADMINISTRATIVE LAW – freedom of information – personal information – remittal of decision for reconsideration.

McKay v Brisbane City Council & Anor; Panozzo v Brisbane City Council & Anor; Jensen v Brisbane City Council & Anor [2021] QPEC 42
PLANNING AND ENVIRONMENT – APPEAL – submitter appeal against approval of a development application seeking a development permit for material change of use for a six storey multiple dwelling in the Medium density residential zone – whether the proposed development is of an appropriate height, bulk and scale – whether the proposed development will contribute to a cohesive streetscape – whether the proposed development will be compatible with the existing and intended character of the area – whether the proposed development will cause any unacceptable amenity impact – whether the proposed development provides for adequate deep planting and landscaping – whether there is a need for the proposed development – whether there are relevant matters that support approval of the proposed development – whether the development application for the proposed development should be approved in the exercise of the planning discretion
Planning Act 2016 Qld s 45, s 59, s 60; Planning and Environment Court Act 2016 Qld s 43, s 45, s 47.

Odna Group Pty Ltd v Logan City Council [2021] QPEC 41
PLANNING AND ENVIRONMENT – APPEAL – appeal against refusal of a development application for operational works for an electronic advertising device – whether the development conflicts with the advertising device code in the planning scheme – whether the advertising device would materially affect the safety of the movement network – whether the proposal complies with either the performance outcome or the purpose and overall outcome of the code, given the operation of the acceptable outcomes is excluded in relation to safety – whether the advertising device would materially adversely affect, rather than protect, the visual amenity of the surrounding area – whether the acceptable outcomes are met where, in part, they refer to standards for various signs, none of which fit the description of the proposal – whether the proposal meets the performance outcomes or the purpose and overall outcomes in relation to visual amenity – whether public benefit supports the favourable exercise of discretion
Planning Act 2016 Qld ss 45(3), 60(2); Planning and Environment Court Act 2016 Qld ss 43, 45, 47.

Cheung & Ors v Brisbane City Council & Ors [2021] QPEC 39
PLANNING AND ENVIRONMENT – CONSOLIDATED APPEALS – where the appellants appeal a decision by the Brisbane City Council to approve a development application to build a 28 dwelling unit complex on 5,335m2 of land at Ascot – whether the development is of such a bulk, form, intensity and height and scale that it complies with the assessment benchmarks of the Brisbane City Plan – whether the impacts of the development on local amenity comply with the assessment benchmarks of the Brisbane City Plan – whether the development is to be considered an ‘overdevelopment’ under the Brisbane City Plan – whether there are other relevant matters in favour of approval – Planning Act 2016 Qld ss 43, 59; Planning and Environment Court Act 2016 Qld ss 43, 45, 46(2), 47; Planning Regulation 2017 Qld s 31(1), Schedule 24.

Legislation

NSW

Proclamations commencing Acts
Local Government Amendment (Governance and Planning) Act 2016 No 38 (2021-453) – published LW 20 August 2021

Regulations and other miscellaneous instruments
Contaminated Land Management (Adjustable Amounts) Notice 2021 (2021-478) – published LW 27 August 2021
Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation 2021 (2021-485) – published LW 27 August 2021
Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2021 (2021-486) – published LW 27 August 2021
Graffiti Control Regulation 2021 (2021-458) – published LW 20 August 2021
Local Government (General) Amendment (Integrated Planning and Reporting) Regulation 2021 (2021-459) – published LW 20 August 2021
Local Government (General) Regulation 2021 (2021-460) – published LW 20 August 2021
Local Government (Manufactured Home Estates, Caravan Parks, Camping Grounds and Moveable Dwellings) Regulation 2021 (2021-461) – published LW 20 August 2021
Public Health Amendment (COVID-19 Penalty Notice Offences) Regulation (No 3) 2021 (2021-452) – published LW 16 August 2021

Disclaimer
The information in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this newsletter is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.

Published by:

Joseph Sherman

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