I am pleased to present this performance audit on aspects of local government procurement that require close attention.
Local governments in Western Australia manage more than $40 billion in community assets and spend over $4 billion annually on community infrastructure and services such as roads and footpaths, public halls, recreation facilities and rubbish collection.
Good procurement practices centred around the principles of probity, accountability and transparency are key to managing procurement risks and the delivery of good outcomes for ratepayers. When procurement processes are not followed, or local governments are seen not to be acting in the best interests of their communities, they face reputational damage and expose themselves to the risk of fraud and misconduct. Unfortunately, there are numerous recent reports from integrity agencies which highlight the very real consequences when procurement activities in the public sector are not managed effectively.
My report highlights weaknesses in procurement controls, processes and documentation across the 8 local governments we audited, as well as the need for them to build procurement capability to give staff the knowledge and skills to effectively carry out their jobs. These generally reflect areas for improvement identified in our previous audit reports about State Government entities as well as other public reports.
Some local governments disagreed with the significance of a number of control weaknesses identified. Local governments considered that a finding was not worthy of a ‘significant’ rating if the control weakness did not result in a breach of regulations or the audit did not find evidence of wrongdoing. While legislation places minimum specific requirements on local governments, they still need to ensure they have strong internal controls and good governance. Controls prevent things going wrong and are particularly important in financial management processes, where there is an inherent risk of financial misappropriation. I welcome discussion on this matter and am pleased all local governments have committed to amending their policies and procedures and improving internal controls over purchases, where required.
The findings from this audit have helped me identify areas worthy of future audit attention. Fostering enhanced understanding in the local government sector about the importance of strong internal control frameworks, around not only procurement, but over a wide range of areas, including information system security and regulatory functions, will be prioritised in our future work. I encourage all local governments to review their procurement practices against the focus areas of this audit.