ORANGE City Council has defended its accountability to ratepayers following a damning assessment of local councils in a report calling for better oversight and public scrutiny of local government.
The NSW Auditor-General’s report depicts the state government’s Division of Local Government (DLG) as a toothless tiger when it comes to dealing with councils that do the wrong thing and has called for the Local Government Act to be amended to give the department more power.
While he welcomed the review, financial services policy committee chair Cr Chris Gryillis said Orange City Council had already incorporated a number of the suggestions for better financial accountability.
“Council staff already provide a significant amount of data and statistics every year to the DLG,” he said.
“I welcome the suggestion that the division be encouraged to more effectively analyse and monitor the performance of councils, but I hope that doesn’t mean local councils will be burdened with a significant increase in reporting requirements.”
Auditor-General Peter Achterstraat says unlike other states, the NSW DLG does not have a standard way to determine whether councils are in good financial health.
NSW councils spend more than $9.3 billion annually, manage over $117 billion in public assets and employ more than 50,000 people, but the department does not monitor council service delivery.
“When compared to other states, the people of NSW are not getting the same level of comfort that councils comply with relevant laws, are financially viable and deliver efficient and effective services to residents and ratepayers,” Mr Achterstraat said.
Orange City Council is one of 75 across the state that already have specialist staff, shared with Dubbo and Bathurst, to handle internal audit functions, as recommended by the report.
Currently NSW councils are not required to have an internal audit alongside the complusory annual external audits.
Cr Gryllis said the report’s suggestion for compulsory Audit and Risk Management Committees for councils had also already been implemented in Orange.
The latest report comes on the back of the Local Government Act review, last year’s Destination 2036 local government action plan and the Independent Local Government Review Panel to which Orange council will contribute.