Fraud warning go-slow

MORE than a year after a state government audit warned Vincent council was vulnerable to fraud, almost nothing concrete has been done to fix it.

The state Auditor General reviewed Vincent and four other councils in August 2019 in response to high profile fraud investigations in the sector. 

It didn’t set out to find instances of misdeeds but just to review their fraud control systems, and found them lacking. The five councils were advised to develop a “fraud and corruption control plan” including better (and anonymous) reporting avenues so whistleblowers can speak up, and fraud awareness training for staff.

They are considered “high” risk items by Vincent’s audit committee and the work was supposed to be completed by December 2020.

The most recent audit committee minutes reveal there’s been almost no progress to date. 

The only action taken was in March this year when Vincent had “initial discussions” with another of the audited councils, Nedlands, about going halfsies on a consultant to fix the issues. It was then put “on hold due to change in priorities due to Covid-19”.

Former councillor Dudley Maier attended the November 17 council meeting to query the inaction at public question time. He asked: “Does the CEO consider this lack of response to be acceptable? Who is responsible for the lack of progress in this high-risk area?”

CEO David MacLennan said of the new fraud management plan: “That is a large project and we do have a working draft we’ll be bringing to the audit committee shortly.” 

Mr MacLennan said it’s not yet set whether the draft will go to the next meeting or the one after, as they’ve spent the last two months on a huge financial audit and an IT audit.

“But that project is in hand and will be presented shortly to the audit committee for consideration.”

by DAVID BELL

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