City of Perth Inquiry

Sitting at 1,972 pages, The Report of the Inquiry into the City of Perth is certainly comprehensive. And at a cost of $7,200,000 you’d hope it would be; especially the poor ratepayers who need to foot this bill. But was it worth it?

I don’t think so.

And I don’t think the media have covered the real villain in all of this – the administration (management).

The Report, which can be found here, highlights to me that a number of issues stem from the administration, not the council. The Report points out that the Executive Leadership Team (ELG) had a lack of experience which would “have made it more difficult, at least initially, for the ELG to provide the required executive leadership to the City”.

Below is an indication of the lack of Local Government experience from the ELG:

With local government inexperience being an issue, it should be of great interest to ratepayers on how much experience the new CEO, recently appointed by the City of Perth Commissioners, has in local government. Going by her Linkedin profile, not a lot. Well none.

The inexperience of the ELG goes a long way in explaining some of the below scathing quotes (all emphasis added):

The Report states “By March 2018, when the Council was suspended, the City was characterised by low morale and a lack of trust, respect and integrity. It was the subject of a number of claims of bullying, intimidation and harassment.

The Report quotes Deloitte’s “City of Perth Organisational Capability and Compliance Assessment Report”, as saying “The lack of organisation-wide clarity and shared understanding of roles and responsibilities is causing indecisiveness, wasted effort and unconstructive tension between teams. Siloes are deepening due to ineffective team collaboration, which left unchecked may impact staff morale and retention of talent”.

Included quotes from a Catalyse employee survey were “There is a perception that certain management roles are not being carried out professionally or with the necessary expertise to manage their teams”. ““Employees perceive that there is a lack of effective communication between the leadership and general staff”. “Respondents also want greater opportunities for open dialogue with their superiors, allowing staff to be honest without fear of retribution”.

From the Catalyse 2017 staff survey, “There needs to be a strong overhaul of culture – break down silos between teams & work on improving relationships between both directorates and individual teams.”

A CULTYR Employee Scorecard said that “respondents feel that more needs to be done to address work-place bullying at management level and to encourage a less hierarchical management system.”

Talk about dysfunction!

The above relates to the administration; they’re the people running the joint. The council don’t run a local government, they are simply meant to provide a strategic direction (which should be based on the wants of the ratepayers & residents) for the administration to follow.  

The Local Government Act, and good governance, is very clear on there being a delineation between the council (board) and administration (management). However the Act does state the council is “responsible for the performance of the local government’s functions”. And so ultimately, the council must be held responsible for the administration’s deficiencies. Whilst holding an administration to account can be a tough job when a council is prevented from getting too closely involved in the administration, there are methods which an experienced council should use.