Council to appoint audit committee
An Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee will be established by the Central Coast Council with three independent members to be appointed by an open recruitment process.
Central Coast Council Administrator, Mr Ian Reynolds, resolved to establish the committee at Council's January 24 ordinary meeting.
He requested CEO, Mr Rob Noble, to "undertake an open recruitment process to identify potential independent members ...and provide a report to the Ordinary Meeting of the Council on March 22 on the appointment of independent members to the committee".
The new committee will replace the Audit Committees of the former Gosford and Wyong Councils.
The Central Coast Council doesn't have and is not under any current legal obligation to have an audit committee.
However, when sections of the Local Government Amendment (Governance and Planning) Act 2016 come into force it will be a requirement of the Act for all councils to appoint an Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee.
According to the new law, the Committee would be responsible for keeping under review Council's compliance, risk management, fraud control, financial management, governance, implementation of the strategic plan, delivery program and strategies, service reviews, collection of performance measurement data by the council, and any other matters prescribed by the regulations.
In May 2016 the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet issued an advice to recently merged council's titled Managing Change: Guidance for Key Staff.
That advice recommended that recently-merged local councils established internal audit committees.
The committee will comprise three independents and two councillors (or, prior to the election of the new councillors, the administrator and a person appointed by the administrator).
The chair of the committee must be independent.
According to a report from Council's Governance Department, independent candidates will be selected on the basis of their skills, knowledge, competencies and professional development specifically covering: the Central Coast's regional profile; local government framework and regulatory requirements; Council services, activities, projects and operations; organisational performance; internal audit; financial management; risk management; organisational governance; continuous improvement, innovation and data analytics.
The set of proposals considered by Mr Reynolds was drawn up between the chief internal auditor, legal and governance manager, governance and business services manager and the governance co-ordinator.
"To progress to the next stage, the implementation of the committee, further input will be sought from other key stakeholders such as members of the executive leadership team, the senior internal ombudsman and ex-independent committee members of the former councils, if possible."
Mr Reynolds resolved to undertake the process to establish an audit, risk and improvement committee as a matter of priority.
"It provides sufficient lead-in time to consider the most effective way to determine how best the committee can meet its future responsibilities," the report said.
"It also allows sufficient time for the recruitment of suitable independent committee members.
"Having an audit, risk and improvement committee in place prior to the 2017 Council elections provides a degree of continuity for the Council administration, and facilitates a controlled transition towards establishing an organisational culture of ownership, accountability and robust governance."
The full cost of the committee are not yet known.
"The former Wyong Council paid a chairperson $20,920 per annum and committee members $2092 per meeting day.
An audit committee charter was also endorsed by Mr Ian Reynolds.
It was based on guidelines issued by the chief executive of the Office of Local Government and, according to Mr Noble, was consistent with best practice.
The charter was to be adopted and reviewed at least once during each council term.
The three external members will be appointed, by resolution of the Council, for a term of three years after which they will be eligible for extension or re-appointment following a formal review of their performance by Council.
The independent external members can also be removed by resolution of Council.
"Expressions of interest for appointment as an independent member of the Committee are to be invited by public advertisement and written invitation.
"Any such nominations will be received and reviewed by the chief executive officer who will prepare a report for Council's consideration.
"The recruitment of those members of the Committee is to be based on merit, and it is important that the selection process used is transparent and accountable."
In response to questions about when and how the open recruitment process for the three independent members of the new committee would be appointed, Central Coast Council issued the following statement: "The process around establishing the committee is currently being investigated".
Central Coast Council agenda 3.1, 24 Jan 2017
Media statement, 30 Jan 2017
Ian Reynolds, Central Coast Council