The Role of Local Government Inspectorate & Revise Rates Capping 2017-18 Guidance

On the 4 March 2017, we hosted our first 2017 community education forum to better understand:

  1. The role of the Local Government Inspectorate in the Victorian Public sector’s Integrity System for Public, presented by David Wolf
  2. ESC Revised Rate Capping Guidance 2017-18, presented by Andrew Chow.

We recorded these presentations and will upload the videos on this website and Facebook, when they are available.

Local Government Investigations & Compliance Inspectorate (LGICI)

The LG Inspectorate has been in operation since 2009 and with the return of Chief Municipal Inspector   David Wolf in July 2016, has been cementing its position as the lead integrity agency for local government in Victoria.

David’s presentation helped to clarity the responsibility and key function of the Local Government Inspectorate, which is to investigate concerns related to council operations including criminal or corruption offences involving councillors, senior council officers or any person subject to the conflict of interest provisions.  It is not just about any violations of the LG Act by Councillors, as many of us incorrectly thought so.

If you have complaints about council operations and breaches of the Local Government Act 1989, which relates to the following and leads to potential criminal offenses:

  • corruption incidents
  • misuse of position
  • conflict of interest
  • disclosure of confidential information
  • distribution of unauthorised electoral material

then go to the LGICI’s complaint reporting guidelines, available on its webpage.

The best way to submit a complaint is to complete an online form – click here to access it. The agency is keen to address ratepayers’ complaints and will advise incident reporters of follow-up evaluation decisions and actions.

Essential Service Commission (ESC)’s Revised Rate Capping Guidance 2017-18:

ESC Andrew Chow presented the Revised Rate Capping Guidance 2017-218 resources as he did to councils, to ratepayers.

There is a role for ratepayers to evaluate how well their councils comply with the Community Engagement Guidance, which requires councils to inform their communities not just tokenism information about their proposed higher rate caps, but also

  • the reasons for which the higher cap is sought
  • how the views of the ratepayers and community have been taken into account
  • how the higher cap is an efficient use of council resources and represents value for money
  • what consideration has been given to reprioritising proposed expenditures and pursuing alternative funding options and why those funding options are not adequate
  • the application’s consistency with the council’s long-term strategy and financial management policies.

These business case information must be disclosed to communities. Communities have an oversight role to check the community engagement compliance requirements are adequately met. If they know councils are eluding this compliance obligation, they should inform the ESC before or at the time their councils submit in their rates variation. ESC has a short time-frame to evaluate all councils’ applications and there may be insufficient time to address community feedback received late.

Ratepayers are already aware that some councils, such as Monash Council, are manipulating community engagement and making multi-million and biased and closed meetings’ project decisions now that will impact future rate levels in 3 or more years later. While some councils may elude informing their constituents of the future and longer term rate burden impacts of their larger project decisions now, little do they know that ratepayers can read & evaluate their councils’ 4 years forecasts of statutory financial ratios to understand whether future rate burdens prevail with their current large project intentions.

The Rates Capping policy require councils to consider long term forecasts in budget planning. However there is a loophole in the LG Act –  some councils  can be elusive in disclosing budget scenarios and long term forecasts publicly, because LG Act does not explicitly require them to do so. Reporting such elusiveness to the ESC now, will be considered when ESC evaluates these councils’  rate variation applications in the future.