Consultants arrive at council

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Civil service: Municipal monitor Pru Digby has recommended councillors attend good governance workshops. Picture: Gary Sissons

CONSULTANTS have visited Frankston Council alongside the municipal monitor brought in last year to help councillors get along with each other and ratepayers will foot the bill.

Former Carlton Football Club chairman Michael Malouf, also a former CEO at several councils, hosted a two-and-a-half-hour governance workshop for councillors last month.

When asked by The Times, council CEO Dennis Hovenden confirmed Mr Malouf’s management consultant business has been hired by council.

“The municipal monitor recommended that the councillors hold a governance development workshop. This workshop focused on procedures and behaviours which support good governance,” Mr Hovenden said in a statement.

“Malouf Management Services Pty Ltd were engaged to facilitate that workshop, at a cost of $4938. Council is responsible for this cost.”

Monitor Prue Digby, the former CEO of the Victorian Building Authority, arrived at council in December last year to attend council meetings and report back to Victorian Local Government Minister Marlene Kairouz.

Ms Digby is tracking councillors’ behaviour and “the chief executive officer’s policies and practices that manage the interactions between councillors and council staff, and compliance with these policies and practices” according to terms of reference published online by the state government.

The state government previously advised the municipal monitor’s remuneration is fixed at $1200 per day, and the monitor’s wages and travel expenses must be paid by Frankston Council in accordance with the Local Government Act.

Ms Digby is expected to work at least two days each week for a possible full 18-month term of appointment.

Ratepayers may ultimately pay more than $180,000 for the monitor’s wages while she attends council meetings.

Ms Digby told The Times “there is nothing unusual” in councils hiring consultants to speak to councillors about good governance practices.

“Most councils do this on a regular basis,” she said.

Ms Digby said council had previously hired Mr Malouf for other work so “was comfortable” bringing his consultancy in to work on governance matters.

Mr Malouf was hired by council as a facilitator between councillors and the CEO during Mr Hovenden’s annual performance review held last month (“CEO knocks back pay hike”, The Times 23/4/18).

It is common practice for councils to hire a facilitator during the CEO performance review process to help assess and set key performance indicators.

The monitor said a decision on how often Mr Malouf would visit council and subsequent workshops, with associated costs to ratepayers, has not yet been determined.

According to a LinkedIn profile, Mr Malouf is a former CEO of Melbourne City Council (1997-2003), Greater Geelong Council (1995-1997) and Wyndham Council (1994-1995).

He was chairman of AFL football club Carlton from 2003 until 2007.

Elsewhere in Victoria, a monitor is also in place at Ararat Council and two monitors are at Greater Geelong Council.

Central Goldfields Shire councillors were sacked in August last year by the Labor state government and administrators were appointed to run council services.

The Local Government Minister can stand down councillors on the advice of a monitor.

First published in the Frankston Times – 21 May 2018

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