DEALING WITH COMPLAINTS DURING INTERIM ADMINISTRATION An absolute priority for the IMC was to address staff complaints and issues. An independent hotline was established to ensure privacy and to ensure the review of these complaints were dealt with in a secure and consistent fashion.
Improper use of council issued credit cards;
Adequacy of policy and procedures regarding issue and withdrawal of Penalty Infringement Notices; Adequacy of policy and procedures in animal management; and Manipulation of HR processes, for example show cause or performance management to bully/harass/reprise; collusion to manufacture evidence against employee. The Ipswich workload in dealing with some 50 PIDs compares extraordinarily with the PID workload across local government in Queensland; the IMC workload for PIDs was approximately 60% of the entire state’s 77 councils’ collective total PIDs in 2018-19. Appropriate action has been taken on all PIDs. Depending on the nature of each complaint, they were referred to the CCC or the Independent Assessor for advice and review, and/or addressed in-house, with the support of external investigators. All of these PIDS except five have now been finalised. Only one PID is currently under investigation; the other four outstanding PIDs have been investigated and reported on and are in final stages of resolution and decision-making by your council’s CEO. As a result of the outcomes of this significant body of work, a number of people are no longer employed by council. Many findings from these investigations also helped inform the transformation projects of systemic issues that needed to be addressed. Importantly for ratepayers, no council employee who exited as a result of these investigations was paid any sum outside of their specific legal entitlements under either their employment contract or relevant Enterprise Bargaining Agreement; no-one was “bought out” to leave.
118 complaints were made by council staff over the 16 months; 51 of which were assessed to be Public Interest Disclosures (PIDs) under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 ; meaning a serious wrongdoing. The allegations covered a wide range of potential corruption and misconduct, including:
Failure to declare and/or manage conflicts of interest;
Poor project governance;
Reprisals against disclosers;
Abuse of power/misuse of authority; decision-making without reasons for decisions and without record-keeping;
Fraud – CV, timesheets, proper recording of payments received; Pressure on council suppliers to provide free and discounted services to employee in private capacity when employee had decision-making influence over the supplier’s engagement;
Unauthorised access to emails;
Failure to protect confidentiality; breach of information privacy;
Sexual harassment and racial discrimination;
Breaches or flouting of procurement rules, including co-opting of others or turning a blind eye, or insufficient diligence to enforce rules (tolerance of rule-bending);