Move to curb CEO’s ‘bonus’ powers


MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire councillors want the state government to rein in the power of municipal chief executive officers to prevent bonuses being secretly given to staff.

Under the current rules CEOs can grant bonuses to staff without telling councillors, residents or ratepayers.

Council CEOs are the only council officers appointed and controlled by councillors. All other council staff are under the jurisdiction of the CEO.

Cr David Gill told The News that the shire’s current CEO, John Baker, had not awarded any bonuses to staff.

However, a previous CEO who he declined to name, had provided bonuses to individual officers “of $40,000 and up to $60,000”.

The 2019/20 budget shows staff costs comprise $82.1 million of the shire’s total expenses of $191.7m.

“We all have the right to know how our rates and any other income is spent,” Cr Gill said.

“A former CEO of the shire has apparently been able to pay huge bonuses without the knowledge of council.

“I believe that the council of the time set up a mechanism to prevent bonus payments being paid without their knowledge, but that was seemingly ignored.”

Councillors at the 14 July meeting (held online) agreed with Cr Gill that the Local Government Minister Shaun Leane be asked to “review … the situation where chief executive officers of municipalities in Victoria have extraordinary powers to give confidential large yearly bonuses to selected staff … and is apparently entirely at their sole discretion”.

Mr Leane was appointed local government minister in June following the sacking by the Premier Daniel Andrews of Adem Somyurek amid allegations of branch stacking and offensive language.

The request was also made to Local Government Victoria and Victorian Auditor-General’s Office and listed for adoption by other councils at the next state conference of the Municipal Association of Victoria.

The shire’s letter to the minister will state that the powers given by the government to CEOs “lacks transparency and accountability and creates apprehension of outcomes that may not be in the community interest”.

Comments made on the agenda by an unnamed officer said there were “mechanisms” already built into the system to stop the CEO telling council if any bonuses had been granted.

“Therefore, it is the officer position that such oversight does not require any legislative or state policy change, with mechanisms to address the concerns raised presently available within the existing legislative and policy framework,” the unnamed officer stated.”

The officer stated that council could ask to be told about any performance-based bonuses and if they had been appropriately assessed.

The officer then stated that “council officers will be seeking clarity regarding what points of advocacy are to be raised and specifically what changes are sought” if councillors asked Mr Leane to curb the powers of CEOs.

Councillors voted unanimously to approach Mr Leane, the auditor general and other municipalities.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 21 July 2020


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