Inquiry into City of Perth operations identifies a number of very serious matters

Inquiry into City of Perth operations identifies a number of \very serious\ matters

Inquiry into City of Perth uncovers issues

An inquiry into the troubled City of Perth has already uncovered "a large number of very serious matters" that are complex and appear to be endemic.

During the discovery phase, the inquiry has collected 2.9 million electronic documents, 22 archive boxes and almost 90 electronic devices.

Local GovernmentCity of Perth inquiry uncovers large number of serious mattersAngie RaphaelAAP Wednesday, 21 November 2018 12:35PM Inquiry into City of Perth exposes serious, complex and endemic issuesThe West AustralianPlay VideoVideoA public inquiry into the City of Perth has highlighted multiple, complex issues that need addressing.Share to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail UsLink IconAn inquiry into scandal-plagued City of Perth has already uncovered a large number of very serious matters that appear to be endemic and has used coercive powers to obtain some information.

It has also spoken with 44 people and used its coercive powers to issue 35 notices to require people to produce documents and information.

"The issues are complex; they often overlap. They appear to be endemic at the city," counsel assisting the commissioner, Kim Lendich, told the inquiry on Wednesday.

The inquiry was launched following a failure by Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi to disclose travel and accommodation gifts, reports of infighting between councillors, two CEOs taking stress leave and the suspension of the council.

But Ms Lendich said she could not be specific to preserve the integrity of the ongoing investigation.

The inquiry has so far collected 2.9 million electronic documents, 22 archive boxes and 88 electronic devices, counsel assisting the commissioner, Kim Lendich, told the inquiry on Wednesday.

Local Government Minister David Templeman told State Parliament he would consider any formal request to extend the the inquiry if it requested a later reporting date, which is currently expected to be May, 2019.

"Of course, as I said back when the panel inquiry was announced and established, that if there is indeed a formal request, that will be considered by government and that will include consideration of extending the time," he said.

Opposition local government spokesman Tony Krsticevic said he was was shocked by the length and breadth of the issues facing the panel of inquirers and called on the government to supply more time and resources for them to be investigated fully.

Commissioner Tony Power said the public hearings would take a number of months and some private hearings would also be required.

"It's obviously a very complex inquiry that's taking place, we're already nine months since the council was suspended on March 2 and some seven months since the inquiry panel started," he said.

"It's just impossible with the level of resources that are being given and the complexity of issues ranging between 2015 and 2018 for them to be able to do justice to the ratepayers of the City of Perth."

It is about legitimate, accountable and effective ways of obtaining and using public power and resources, she said.

The inquiry was launched following a failure by Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi to disclose travel and accommodation gifts, reports of infighting between councillors, two CEOs taking stress leave and the suspension of the council.

It will examine the city's operations between October 2015 and March 2018 or earlier if necessary.

There are a large number of very serious matters which arise for investigation, Ms Lendich said.

Commissioner Tony Power said the public hearings would take "a number of months" and some private hearings would also be required.

But Ms Lendich said she could not be specific to preserve the integrity of the ongoing investigation.

The inquiry released a letter addressed to the Department of Local Government director general, signed by then-CEO Martin Mileham and five directors, detailing five examples of alleged dysfunction including argumentative or disrespectful communication from some councillors to staff.

It will examine the citys operations between October 2015 and March 2018 or earlier if necessary.

"It is about legitimate, accountable and effective ways of obtaining and using public power and resources," she said.

"The inquiry must consider whether there has been improper or undue influence or improper or unlawful conduct."

Ms Lendich noted of the 77 services provided by the city, only 16 were compulsory and two were delegated by the state government.

Earlier this month, WAtoday revealed Local Government Minister David Templeman handed the inquiry tough new powers to investigate improper and unlawful conduct, allowing the inquiry to apply to the Supreme Court for search warrants and seize relevant information by force if necessary.

Last Tuesday, local government administrator Murray Jorgensen was appointed the City's acting chief executive officer after its former boss Martin Mileham was sacked from the job in October.

Nathan covers state politics for WAtoday. He is a former editor of the Mandurah Mail, where he also covered politics for Fairfaxs regional titles.

An inquiry into operations and affairs at the City of Perth has identified a large number of “very serious” matters, and has been forced to use its coercive powers to obtain some documents and information.

The probe was launched in April after a period of turmoil that included a gifts and expenses scandal surrounding Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi, infighting and accusations of bribery between councillors, two CEOs taking stress leave and the eventual suspension of the entire council.

It is designed to report on operations and affairs at the council, including fractious relationships between elected members and the administration, and whether the council should be reinstated or dismissed.

Today the inquiry, overseen by Perth barrister Tony Power, held its first public hearing to provide an update on the progress of the investigation so far and to issue a call for community submissions.

Counsel assisting the panel, Kim Lendich, said the inquiry had collected almost 3 million electronic documents, 90 electronic devices and had interviewed more than 40 people.

“What is clear from the investigation to date is that there are a large number of very serious matters which have arisen for investigation,” Ms Lendich said.

Ms Lendich said many of the issues being investigated were related to the culture of the organisation.

“The inquiry must consider whether there has been a failure of good government, the prospect of good government in the future,” she said.

The inquiry also released a letter addressed to the director general of the Department of Local Government, and signed by then-CEO Martin Mileham and the five directors of the City.

It detailed five examples of alleged dysfunction within the organisation including “a significant volume of repetitive, or argumentative, or disrespectful communication” from some councillors towards senior staff.

It also referenced an apparent political or biased approach to council matters, including the appointment of senior staff.

It is expected to continue for some months before making recommendations to the Department for Local Government.

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