NSW councils ‘need to lift reporting standards’

LOCAL Government in NSW is not doing enough to demonstrate competent service delivery to its constituents, says the state’s Audit Office.

While many councils report activity, Auditor-General Margaret Crawford says they do not report on outcomes in ways that help their communities understand what services are being delivered, how efficiently and effectively they are being delivered, and what improvements are being made.

The NSW Audit Office analysed 105 council annual reports during its performance audit, published on 1 February.

Among the key findings: only around a third of the reported activities included information on services outcomes, and less than 20 per cent gave information on performance over time.

Reporting by metropolitan and regional town and city councils was generally better than by rural councils. However, the report noted that “consultation with councils highlighted that most would welcome the opportunity to improve current reporting practices”.

The report has recommended that the NSW Office of Local Government (OLG) should, by mid-2018, give councils additional guidance on good practice in reporting, start developing a performance measurement framework, and help rural councils develop their reporting capability.

Local Government New South Wales (LGNSW) President Linda Scott welcomed the report, saying the sector had been calling for a better reporting system for more than five years – and that it was still looking forward to the NSW Government’s response to an April 2016 report by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) which examined the reporting and compliance burdens on Local Government.

“I welcome calls for more transparency in Local Government,” Cr Scott said. “We look forward to working with the OLG to improve reporting to local communities.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded here.