Corporate collapses together with Executives and Directors suffering less than convincing memory losses; conflicts of interest with auditing firms; Government travel rorts and general mismanagement; scientists enhancing research results; people in high places abusing their positions; even a national football club coming to grief after sidestepping the rules – the list goes on. As ethics and propriety are regularly being thrown out the window, it is little wonder the community is becoming increasingly disillusioned.
When people start to lose confidence in our checks and balances, our whole system comes under threat. With our three spheres of Government jointly accountable to the people that elected them, it is here that the highest of standards must be clearly demonstrated.
Speaking at the recent Local Government Association of Queensland’s Annual Conference, State Ombudsman David Bevan said that probity and accountability is everyone’s business. He told delegates that a commitment to ethical principles demands that their Council sets high standards of practice and listens carefully to what its community is saying.
To address a lack of confidence in public administration, system must be put in place to ensure accountability. A good complaints handling system, with staff appropriately trained in customer relations, is vital. It is nigh on impossible to please all the people all the time, but as long as residents or ratepayers feel they have been treated fairly, with respect and in a timely manner a Council is fulfilling its stewardship on behalf of the community. Feedback through advisory groups, regular surveying and public consultation will assist in addressing key concerns, ensuring a Council’s policy making is on track in meeting community needs and expectations.
In putting policy decisions into action, and in the day to day operations carried out by Councils, it is management and staff on the front line. To get the best from a Council’s greatest resource, its people, training and development is paramount. At the same time, it is essential to have in place the means for staff to review systems, make suggestions and try new things.
In this edition, we have covered a range of Council initiatives plus various courses available to expand the expertise and horizons not only for staff but for Councillors, volunteers and community representatives on advisory groups. Providing a skilled, safe, ethical and productive working environment, covering both policy making and operations, will return dividends from this crucial investment time and time again.