The Report on Matters of Serious Misconduct in the Shire of Exmouth focuses on the Commission’s investigation into three aspects of Shire governance – the actions of the Shire CEO who ‘was a law unto himself’, the conduct of a Shire employee who benefited from his friendship with the CEO, and a million-dollar contract that has exposed the ratepayers of Exmouth to significant financial risk.
The Commission formed a number of opinions of serious misconduct and recommends that consideration is given to the prosecution of former CEO, Bill Price, and his friend and former Shire employee, Andrew Forte.
The report into activities at Exmouth underlines disturbing features that have proved common to other local government authorities and are areas worthy of assessment and focus by all local governments. They include:
- inadequate governance, whether due to placing friendship above probity, ignorance of robust procedures or some other reason;
- a culture of entitlement;
- lack of adherence to local government policy and inadequate oversight;
- authority and responsibility for very significant procurement and contract management resting with administrators who are not necessarily appropriately qualified, experienced or monitored;
- councillors who are ill-equipped to oversight complex and often high-stakes activities, particularly in the area of procurement and contract management;
- confusion as to the extent to which a councillor can make enquiries of administrative staff; and
- difficulty and conflicts arising for people who are aware of potentially corrupt activity, but reticent to speak up.
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