The objective of this audit was to assess the effectiveness of procurement arrangements at 8 local government entities (LGs) of varying sizes in both metropolitan and regional Western Australia.
There are currently 148 LGs in WA. The population and geographical spread of each LG varies significantly, from small regional LGs like the Shire of Sandstone with a population of around 90, to large metropolitan LGs like the City of Stirling with a population of around 220,000.
LGs in WA employ around 15,000 people and manage more than $40 billion in community assets. In 2016-17, the total expenditure across all Western Australian LGs was over $4 billion.
Procurement activities in LGs are primarily governed by the Local Government (Functions and General) Regulations 1996 (the Regulations). The Regulations require LGs to have policies for purchases that are expected to be less than $150,000. LGs develop their own policies, which are required to cover things like the form (verbal or written) and minimum number of quotes that must be obtained, and how procurement information will be recorded and retained.
For purchases over $150,000, the Regulations set specific requirements for public tender. These include advertising, acceptance and rejection of tender applications, notification of outcomes, and maintaining a tenders’ register.
The Regulations also allow for exemptions from the public tender process, these include, but are not limited to:
- certain emergency situations
- if a contract is to be awarded through auction (with Council approval)
- if goods and services are obtained through the WA Local Government Association’s (WALGA) Preferred Supplier Program – a program of suppliers that have been pre-qualified to supply certain goods and services. WALGA members, of which most LGs are, can access the program.
LGs that are members of WALGA can also access a procurement toolkit that includes purchasing and contract management templates. LGs that use WALGA services are still required to meet their own policy and probity requirements and comply with the Regulations.
There are a number of procurement processes and controls that help reduce broader procurement risks and support value for money (Figure 1). Some of these are covered in Regulations, others are based on sound practice.
Due to a variety of factors affecting the way that LGs procure, we did not expect to find identical procurement practices across the LGs included in our audit. The audit therefore required significant judgement when assessing proper procurement practices. However, we did expect them to meet the principles of the Local Government Act 1995 which places obligations on councils to oversee the allocation of the LG’s finances and resources, and for determining the LG’s policies, as well as for LGs to keep proper accounts and records. Furthermore, LGs are required to establish efficient systems and procedures for financial management which includes procurement.
Our audit focus areas are set out in Appendix 1. We reviewed the processes and controls used by LGs, but we did not review if procurement decisions attained the best value for money or outcomes for LG communities.
 This includes 137 LGs, 2 Indian Ocean territories and 9 regional councils.