Audit finds support for local councils inadequate and out of date

Article image - Audit finds support for local councils inadequate and out of date

Victorian Auditor-General John Doyle has released the 'Effectiveness of Support for Local Government' report, finding that support services available to councils are ‘inadequate and out of date’.

The audit found that both Local Government Victoria (LGA) and the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) have established methods for identifying support needs, however, with some exceptions, neither is able to clearly demonstrate how their support activities contribute to the effective and efficient operation of councils.

Victorian Auditor-General John Doyle said that both the LGV and MAV need to strengthen their focus on outcome reporting and evaluation.

“While there are examples of LGV and MAV working together to support councils, there is scope to document and formalise how they can work together in the future, including under the new Victorian State‑Local Government Agreement.

“Legislative and broader governance arrangements compromise the effectiveness, efficiency and economy of support to councils.

“MAV operates in a unique legislative environment and has not been subject to the range of legislation applicable to many other public sector entities and bodies.

“I have made recommendations to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to review the Municipal Association Act 1907 and to improve oversight of MAV.

“MAV does not appear to acknowledge or accept that it is not only accountable to its members but that it also has broader responsibilities and obligations for the efficient, effective and economic use of public funds.

“It is my hope that this report provides an impetus for change.”

In a response issued on their website, the MAV has rejected the finding that the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning should review and determine the MAV’s functions, roles, responsibilities, powers and obligations.

“This view of the MAV is in stark contrast to Queen’s Counsel advice to the MAV, provided to VAGO, that the MAV is an independent, member constituted body over which neither the Minister or the State has power to manage or control.

“As the advice stated …’it would be an incongruous result if a body established to represent the interests of one tier of government was subject to the control or direction of another level of government’.

“The two key outcomes from the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office report for the MAV have been a strengthening of our resolve to remain an independent membership association that will vigorously pursue the priorities defined by our members; and some improvements to our internal processes and practices, particularly how we document them.”