Good governance vital

Corruption, unethical practices and corporate fraud have placed an increasing focus on good governance and quality of leadership. Keynote speaker at the 24th National Congress of Local Government Managers Australia (LGMA), Ivan Deveson, warned of a ‘tsunami of corruption on its way to Australia’.

“Demands for better governance and honesty is escalating,” he said. “What makes you think that someone on your staff does not think that greed is good?”

He said that the fundamentals remain the same – you must have the rules, relationships, systems and processes that will lead to good decisions.

Having worked in six countries, headed major corporations, served as a director on a number of boards and academic institutions, Ivan Deveson said that it was his three years as Lord Mayor of Melbourne that he has found the most interesting.

“Local Government is the A to Z of life and able to make a real contribution to our communities,” Ivan Deveson said.“But until you get Constitutional Recognition you will remain the raggedy doll.” With the spate of major corporate collapses, he believes that the key question that needs to be answered is, where were the finance professionals, the directors and the government officials while all this was happening?

He said it can take years to build a good name and reputation but just minutes to take a wrong direction that can ruin your greatest asset – your name and the organisation you represent. “Never sign accounts without the verification of your internal and external auditors and your Chief Financial Officer,” Ivan Deveson said.

He said his greatest disappointment has been that, try as he might, he was not able to create an atmosphere where the organisations he headed did not kill the messenger.

“Organisations must be able to put a problem on the table, then all of us get in the canoe and row out of it,” Ivan Deveson said.“Establish a clear whistle blower procedure, and ensure you have in place appropriate Council audit and risk management sub committee.

“Training in good governance is vital. Australia is littered with fallen leaders who took too long to realise that the people in their organisation did not have the integrity or ability to get the job done.”

Ivan Deveson was just one of a range of keynote speakers and session presenters who were selected by the Congress organising committee to challenge and inspire delegates.

Then National President, Paul Arnold, described the LGMA Congress as ‘the national conversation of leading Local Government professionals designed to inspire and enlighten delegates’.

“The Local Government sector is in relatively good space,” he said. “Our democracy is one of the best in the world but this is not to say there aren’t the challenges.”

Paul Arnold listed these challenges as attracting and retaining skilled professionals and elected members, service delivery and sustainability, poverty and isolation in rural and regional areas as against wealth and high incomes in other areas, changing demographics and keeping up with infrastructure and service demands.

At the close of the Congress, Paul Arnold handed over to the new LGMA National President, Noelene Duff, who is Chief Executive Officer at the City of Whitehorse.