Auditors find problems with Council’s procedures

Central Coast Council's HQ in Wyong

Ten months after Central Coast councillors first asked for a report on the way that Council was hiring labour, an internal audit has admitted non-compliance with the framework for temporary labour hire.

A number of significant concerns about specific engagements have been referred directly to Council’s internal ombudsman.

This is despite a report to councillors in March 2020 that provided assurances that Council was adhering to legislative requirements.

The revelations are in the December Minutes of the Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee which received a report from the Council’s internal audit into contractors, temporary and contingent labour hire.

The Council meeting in March 2020 was provided with a report stating that prior to and since amalgamation, Council had made considerable progress in adopting a structured and controlled method of engagement and management of temporary personnel.

This report shows that further reviews contradicted that advice.

“Subsequent to these assurances, this audit has reviewed current practices in managing temporary labour hire in terms of cost, tenure, performance, project planning and volume as well as assessing the adequacy of current policies, procedures, and reporting,” the report stated.

“This audit identified that the controls over key risks associated with temporary labour hire are insufficient and require improvement.

“In particular, there has been a lack of ownership of the agency hire framework and non-compliance with the framework for temporary labour hire.”

The audit concluded that Council’s framework for engaging and managing temporary labour was ineffective and did not comply with guidelines, and practices outlined by the Audit Office of NSW.

The report goes on to talk about a number of significant concerns around specific engagements.

“These engagements were referred directly to the Internal Ombudsman and did not form any further part of our testing as these are being investigated separately by the Internal Ombudsman.”

Council was approached on Monday, January 18, for more information, but no comment has been received prior to the Chronicle’s publication deadline.

A total of 16 recommendations for improvement were made, with 13 rated as high-risk exposures.

The report said all recommendations, “in whole or part”, were accepted by management.

The report acknowledged that since the start of the audit, management had been undertaking a project to improve systems and processes around the engagement and management of contractors and temporary labour hire and noted that “overall, management appear to be seeking to better understand the full extent of temporary labour hire and panel arrangements for wet plant hire, day labour and traffic control personnel”.

It said Council’s financial crisis has led to the termination of many agency and contractor engagements.

Cr Greg Best first championed the review of council’s hiring arrangements asking for a report in March last year, and when that report came back in April appearing to show compliance, he said he would wait for the audit report.

The November Minutes of the audit, risk and management committee show Council’s contract management has also been audited.

That review identified that the controls over the key risks in contract management were inadequate and required improvement.

“This is mainly due to the lack of a complete and approved contract management framework, and consequent inconsistencies in the approach to contract management across Council,” the report said.

It said for an enhanced framework to be effective it would need comprehensive implementation, monitoring and compliance by the Directorates.

“An approved framework would add clarity regarding roles, responsibilities, processes, expectations, knowledge retention, and confirmation that risks are being considered and addressed,” the report said.

“This audit identified that the contracts register, although incomplete and in need of support, contains the best information available on contracts requiring management.

“Based on this data, Council had approximately 470 contracts greater than $150,000 each, with a total value of $1,141,444,000 in the financial year 2018/19.”

Merilyn Vale