Shire ‘robust’ in managing corruption prevention

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MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire Council says it has “developed robust policies” to prevent corruption when buying goods and services.

CEO John baker says the shire Places the “highest importance” on managing services it provides with “public money”.

Mr Baker’s assurances follow the investigation of corruption and kickbacks at Darebin and Ballarat councils by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC).

As a result of its investigations IBAC has recommended Local Government Victoria consider developing a code of conduct for local government suppliers.

The code would outline standards expected of suppliers, including in relation to reporting suspected misconduct or corrupt conduct on the part of council employees and other suppliers.

Mr Baker said he “welcomes the development of a code of conduct for suppliers from Local Government Victoria and the recommendations in the [IBAC] report which contribute to the protection of ratepayers money”.

IBAC had warned that corrupt practices uncovered at Darebin and Ballarat “are likely to be faced by most, if not all, councils in Victoria” (“Councils warned about corruption” The News 8/10/19).

Mr Baker says Mornington Peninsula Shire’s has “processes and procurement governance that already address the recommendations made [by IBAC] … pertaining to corruption vulnerabilities”.

“To support our procurement processes and policies, regular training sessions are provided to all employees involved that includes the organisational procurement policy, procedures, system and the employees’ responsibilities in regards to conflict of interest, financial delegations and reporting suspected fraud,” Mr Baker told The News.

In a special report to parliament IBAC warned that councils need to consider the way they manage procurement to reduce risks of corruption.

“Allegations of corruption associated with council procurement practices and processes are a recurring theme in the complaints received and investigated by IBAC,” IBAC commissioner Robert Redlich QC said.

“This report highlights a range of procurement-related corruption risks and vulnerabilities which, while they were found in two councils, are likely to be faced by most if not all councils in Victoria.”

The IBAC investigations found that a former project manager at the Darebin City Council received cash, gifts and other benefits for helping an associate’s company win more than $16 million in contracts.

A former manager at the City of Ballarat Council had enabled associates and family to win contracts, in exchange for financial “kickbacks”. In 2017, the manager was convicted of a range of offences and sentenced to three years’ jail and ordered to repay $31,200.

Three other people, including his wife, pleaded guilty to other charges.

“Considerable power is vested in council employees to source suppliers, manage contracts and authorise payment for goods, services and works – spending millions of dollars of public money,” Mr Redlich said.

“Public sector corruption it is not a victimless crime. It wastes taxes and rates that should be used to operate and maintain Victoria’s schools, hospitals, roads and other vital public services and projects. And it damages the reputation of organisations and undermines community’s confidence in the public sector.”

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 15 October 2019

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