FROM THE CHAMBER

Be nice edict

PERTH councillors will have to be nice when making public statements under their new communications policy.

For years councillors weren’t allowed to speak to the media at all and the lord mayor was the only public spokesperson. A push by former councillor Reece Harley, fed up with not being able to speak his mind when he disagreed with the direction the council was going, saw a policy change in 2017 to let them publicly state opinions.

They still weren’t allowed to bag out their colleagues, council employees, or council decisions, but were allowed to say why they’d voted against a policy. 

The new updates require councillors to be even nicer still: Public statements, whether as a councillor or in a personal capacity, must “maintain a respectful and positive tone”.

Previously they were prevented from using mean words about other councillors and city staff, but that’s been extended to everyone: They’re not allowed to “reflect adversely” on any “other person”. 

The new policy almost had a guidance line in it saying “it is respectful to the office of lord mayor to refrain from commenting publicly, particularly on recent decisions or contemporary issues, until such time as the lord mayor has had opportunity to speak on behalf of the City of Perth”.

That line was deleted on a recommendation from the council’s new policy committee, and the full council passed the be nice policy without dissent.

Fraud gap plugged

AFTER a year-long delay and five missed deadlines Perth council is now due to have a proper fraud and corruption control plan by March.

An external consultant’s report in August 2019 found the city’s fraud control was “highly undeveloped and non-existent in parts” and was considered a “medium” risk.

The Inquiry into the City of Perth report said a lack of a single coherent fraud control plan meant many staff didn’t understand fraud risks, there was confusion over who was responsible for eliminating risk, and even once identified, glaring loopholes would go unfixed for up to five years.

A control plan was meant to be done by January 2020, but the deadline was revised four times as council resources were tied up assisting the state government’s inquiry into misdeeds. 

Other overdue risk fixes include:

• An outdated management investment policy, covering how the city handles hundreds of millions in investments, originally meant to be updated five years ago, was finally fixed this week;

• The IT “disaster recovery plan” to recover their systems and data, another “medium” risk meant to be fixed by December 20 but delayed due to staff shortages and still under review;

• Fixing 65 cyber security issues (25 of them “strongly recommended” fixes by their auditor Microsoft), stemming from an August 2019 review but not due to be fixed until June 2021. 

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