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Ipswich will get a Transparency & Integrity Hub

At the first Ipswich City Council meeting on the 27th April 2020, a Transparency & Integrity Hub was voted for, under Mayor Teresa Harding’s Mayoral Minute. This is something that I fully supported.

There is no question that residents and ratepayers of Ipswich lost confidence in the previous Ipswich City Council, due to misconduct and corruption. I certainly do not want to be part of a council that has elected representatives breaking the law and when I campaigned to be elected as your Councillor, one of my goals was to restore faith in Council because you deserve an honest and transparent council that works for you, not themselves.

This landmark hub, which is a first for an Australian Council, will be a digital portal and provide residents with direct access to past and present financial data and other material controlled by council and its entities.
The hub with cost a maximum of $200,000 to set up and have a yearly ongoing cost of up to $100,000; the project will go to market for tender.

Not only will it prevent financial mismanagement, but it will also enable councillors to take action on financial matters, using data, which has the potential to deliver a better financial outcome for ratepayers; this could be better services or money spent where it is needed the most.

I applaud Mayor Teresa Harding for taking this important step in restoring confidence in Ipswich City Council. Ratepayers and residents had a council that was under administration for 20 months and this is unacceptable and with this new Transparency and Integrity Hub, let’s make sure it never happens again.


Further Information and Details:

ITEM: E.1
TITLE: MAYORAL MINUTE – TRANSPARENCY AND INTEGRITY HUB
AUTHOR:  MAYOR TERESA HARDING

RECOMMENDATION

That Council:
A.   Establish and implement the Ipswich City Council Transparency and Integrity Hub, a digital portal that enables the publication of financial data displayed as contemporary open data (intuitive, interactive, auditable and downloadable by selection) suitable for public consumption. The Transparency and Integrity Hub will enable the Underpinning Principles and Hub Deliverable and will be launched by 1 July 2020.

Underpinning Principles
1. Adopt global best practice approach to open and transparent public sector financial management
2. Demonstrate responsible and transparent governance and decision-making
3. Enable data-driven decision making and rebuild public and stakeholder trust

Hub Deliverable
1. Publish as near to real-time financial data for Ipswich City Council in an open, transparent, interactive portal including, at a minimum:
a. Previous five financial years financial data including detailed project income and expenditure financial data for major projects i.e. The Smart City Program.
b. Council’s 2020-2021 Budget, once adopted;
c. Quarterly financial reporting against the budget.

2. Publish detailed income and expenditure financial data for all current and past Council beneficial (controlled) entities enabling comparison over the previous five financial years, including:
i. Ipswich City Developments Pty Ltd (deregistered) ABN 155 142 288
ii. Ipswich City Developments Pty Ltd (deregistered) (former name Ipswich City Developments Enterprises Pty Ltd) ABN 167 100 441
iii. Ipswich City Enterprises Pty Ltd ABN 095 487 086
iv. Ipswich City Enterprises Investments Pty Ltd ABN 127 862 515
v. Ipswich City Properties Pty Ltd (in Members Voluntary Liquidation) ABN 135 760 637
vi. Ipswich Motorsport Park Pty Ltd (deregistered) (former name Ipswich Motorsport Precinct Pty Ltd) ABN 611 160 902

3. Publish all contracts valued $200,000 or more (excluding GST) for a rolling period of five consecutive years. New data will continue to be published monthly (in accordance with the Local Government Regulation 2012) and the information published will be improved in alignment with best practice across Queensland and Australia.

The new register will include:
a. Suppliers who tendered a response
b. Person/company with whom Council has entered into the contract
c. Contract number
d. Commencement and end dates
e. Value of the contract (estimated/ maximum value)
f. Purpose of the contract/ description of goods and service procured
g. Approver/ Council decision reference (i.e. link to published minutes)

4. Publish all Councillor related expenses, allowances and reimbursements for each month including contextual details of expenses incurred and purpose to enable benchmarking and comparison. Data will be published for the previous five financial years. Where travel costs have been absorbed by specific project costs, these should also be included.

B. Procure, through open tender, a suitable digital platform to enable the delivery of the Transparency and Integrity Hub, ensuring that the platform:

– is intuitive and user friendly, easy to maintain, secure and auditable;
– enables contemporary open data (intuitive, interactive, auditable and downloadable by selection);
– is best of breed software for the task for public sector transparency;
– creates efficiencies in financial data reporting;
– enables visualisations and context suitable for public consumption;
– allows data to be downloaded as CKAN OpenData;
– produces data in machine readable format; and
-directly integrates with Council systems and solutions for ease of use rapid adoption.

C. Bring forward a review of Council’s Open Data Policy to ensure alignment with best-practice approaches to publishing financial data.

D. Prepare a report to Council (and for public viewing) on the Smart City Program including detailed project financial data for the past five financial years and the community outcomes delivered.


SUMMARY

Message from the Mayor
After 20 months in administration, the 2020 Local Government Election represents a fresh start for the residents and ratepayers of Ipswich City Council.
Transparency, accountability and integrity are at the heart of good governance and must be at the centre of every action taken by this elected Council and across the local government organisation.

It has never been more important for us, as elected members and for our executive leaders, to go above and beyond and become the best performing local government in Queensland and Australia.

At our Declaration of Office we accepted the responsibility of upholding local government principles under the Local Government Act 2009, which are:
a) transparent and effective processes, and decision-making in the public interest; and
b) sustainable development and management of assets and infrastructure, and delivery of effective services; and
c) democratic representation, social inclusion and meaningful community engagement; and
d)  good governance of, and by, local government; and
e) ethical and legal behaviour of Councillors and local government employees.

As the first meeting of this newly elected Council, this day draws an important line in the sand for residents and ratepayers. As their new Council, we must all demonstrate the highest standard of leadership and deliver a transparent, accountable and high performing local government.
This is not just important because “it’s the right thing to do”, but because it is Council’s duty to rebuild trust and inspire community and business confidence.

The establishment of the Transparency and Integrity Hub will require an initial and ongoing investment in digital infrastructure. It will be important to ensure the cost of ensuring transparency, accountability and integrity outweigh the significant cost of doing nothing.

The estimated cost to establish the Hub is 0.25% of the $78 million lost by Ipswich City Properties (ICP) or 0.032% of the Council’s 2019-20 budget ($606.1 million). The unquantifiable benefits of restoring community trust and acting in the public interest will ensure this investment provides value for money for the community. To ensure this, the Transparent Governance Community Reference Group will be called upon to provide advice and views and make recommendations to inform the development of the Hub.

Underpinning Principles
The underpinning principles have been developed to enable the community to understand how their rates, fees and charges are being spent and to benchmark Council’s performance over time.

1. Adopt global best practice approach to open and transparent public sector financial management

To demonstrate our commitment to our community and in-line with global best practice, financial data shall be published in an open and transparent manner, as contemporary open data (intuitive, interactive, auditable and downloadable by selection) suitable for public consumption for Ipswich City Council and all beneficial (controlled) entries for a minimum rolling period of 5 years.

2. Demonstrate responsible and transparent governance and decision-making

To demonstrate our commitment to transparent governance, all expenses related to elected Council, as covered in the Councillor Expenses Reimbursement and Administrative Support Policy should be published in detail in an open and transparent format. In the interest of enabling benchmarking, this data should be published for a minimum rolling period of 5 years (in this case including the previous Council’s term).
To demonstrate transparent decision-making, improvements must be made to data published in relation to procurement and contracts entered into by Council and all beneficial (controlled) entries.

3. Enable data-driven decision making and rebuild public and stakeholder trust

To move forward, we must understand root causes, legacy issues and be willing to be transparent about past decisions and activities that led our community and businesses to distrust Council. It is our duty to heed the advice of independent auditors and assessors and ensure that our Council’s decision-making is underpinned by effective use of data, robust policies and processes and are made in the public’s best interest.

These will also ensure culture and corruption risks and lessons identified in the investigation into Ipswich City Council – Operation Windage (August 2018) are responded to, including:
– Identify corruption risks that arise when governance, legislative and disclosure obligations pertaining to local government are ignored (page 10)
– Remind public officials and elected officials of the importance of transparency and accountability (page 10)
– Travel documentation was approved retrospectively, after trips had already been taken, rather than being prepared in line with the prescribed policy (page 21-22)
– One of the Councillors rarely provided the required supporting documentation to justify work-related expenses or, in circumstances where they did do so, the information provided was inaccurate and misleading (page 21-22)
– It was identified that a Councillor and a senior executive employee were also the delegates to approve each other’s travel expenditure. With no other mechanism of oversight, this practice raises questions about the transparency of approvals, allowing for possible collusion regarding each other’s claims (page 21-22)

Hub Deliverables
The establishment of the Transparency and Integrity Hub, an online portal, will better enable the community to understand how their rates, fees and charges are being spent and to benchmark Council’s performance over time.
All data will be published in accordance with best-practice privacy, procurement and open data principles and Council’s relative policies will be reviewed as required to ensure these are currently reflected.

The Hub will prioritise publishing of the following data in the first instance:

Hub Deliverable
1.    Publish as near to real-time financial data for Ipswich City Council in an open, transparent, interactive portal including, at a minimum:
a. Previous five financial years financial data including detailed project income and expenditure financial data for major projects i.e. The Smart City Program.
b. Council’s 2020-2021 Budget, once adopted;
c. Quarterly financial reporting against the budget.

2. Publish detailed income and expenditure financial data for all current and past Council beneficial (controlled) entities enabling comparison over the previous five financial years, including:
i. Ipswich City Developments Pty Ltd (deregistered) ABN 155 142 288
ii. Ipswich City Developments Pty Ltd (deregistered) (former name Ipswich City Developments Enterprises Pty Ltd) ABN 167 100 441
iii. Ipswich City Enterprises Pty Ltd ABN 095 487 086
iv. Ipswich City Enterprises Investments Pty Ltd ABN 127 862 515
v. Ipswich City Properties Pty Ltd (in Members Voluntary Liquidation) ABN 135 760 637
vi. Ipswich Motorsport Park Pty Ltd (deregistered) (former name Ipswich Motorsport Precinct Pty Ltd) ABN 611 160 902

3. Publish all contracts valued $200,000 or more (excluding GST) for a rolling period of five consecutive years. New data will continue to be published monthly (in accordance with the Local Government Regulation 2012) and the information published will be improved in alignment with best practice across Queensland and Australia.
The new register will include:
a. Suppliers who tendered a response
b. Person/company with whom Council has entered into the contract
c. Contract number
d. Commencement and end dates
e. Value of the contract (estimated/ maximum value)
f. Purpose of the contract/ description of goods and service procured
g. Approver/ Council decision reference (i.e. link to published minutes)

4. Publish all Councillor related expenses, allowances and reimbursements for each month including contextual details of expenses incurred and purpose to enable benchmarking and comparison. Data will be published for the previous five financial years. Where travel costs have been absorbed by specific project costs, these should also be included.

5. Procure, through open tender, a suitable digital platform to enable the delivery of the Transparency and Integrity Hub, ensuring that the platform:
a. is intuitive and user friendly, easy to maintain, secure and auditable;
b. enables contemporary open data (intuitive, interactive, auditable and downloadable by selection);
c. is best of breed software for the task for public sector transparency;
d. creates efficiencies in financial data reporting;
e. enables visualisations and context suitable for public consumption;
f. allows data to be downloaded as CKAN OpenData;
g. produces data in machine readable format; and
h. directly integrates with Council systems and solutions for ease of use rapid adoption.

6. Bring forward a review of Council’s Open Data Policy to ensure alignment with best-practice approaches to publishing financial data.

7. Prepare a report to Council (and for public viewing) on the Smart City Program including detailed project financial data for the past five financial years and the community outcomes delivered.

Financial and Procurement Considerations
– The solution must be procured via open market tender.
– The procurement of the solution and the initial publication of data shall not exceed $200,000
– The ongoing cost of maintaining the solution shall not exceed $100,000 per annum and budgeted in future financial years
– Existing internal resources will support the establishment and delivery of the Hub on an ongoing basis

Governance
Council’s Transparent Governance Community Reference Group will provide advice and views and make recommendations to inform the development of the Transparency and Integrity Hub.  This will be guided by an internal advisory group to be established.

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