Lismore City Council's councillors want to see its internal audit committee continue.
Lismore City Council's councillors want to see its internal audit committee continue.

Council supports ‘unworkable’ committee to continue

THE internal audit and risk committee for Lismore City Council will continue, despite the chair requesting it be disbanded.

The Lismore City Council Audit and Risk Committee (ARIC) chair, Stephen Coates, had written to the council explaining the reason for the committee’s need to be disbanded.

Mr Coates explains the committee has become “unworkable” and has become a “political football” after councillors not elected to the committee had tried to interfere with its powers.

He reported that some councillors had tried to record the committee meetings, which goes against its charter for confidentiality in order to achieve appropriate risk management of council operations.

“Lismore City Council is now more than ever in need of clear and transparent oversight from an ARIC, however my view is that the committee cannot continue to operate in its current form,” Mr Coates stated.

He recommends “the committee be re-established in a separate manner to section 355 Committees (the current agreement), or meetings be suspended until such time it can operate as a true independent oversight mechanism of council”.

Councillor Darlene Cook, who was elected as the ARIC council delegate alongside Cr Adam Guise in 2018, said the committee was “absolutely vital” in order to provide an appropriate “oversight of governance”.

She proposed ARIC continues to operate while it reviews its charter and continue improving internal council operations.

“Cancelling and suspending the work of ARIC is turning back the clock,” Cr Cook said.

“We’ve got a rolling program of internal transformations … to suspend that indefinitely until March 2021, which is when the act is enacted, would be detrimental to this organisation.

“Interrupting the work … would be an absolute disaster for this council.

“We’re working our way through a 12-month transformation program, (including) a number of changes and systems to approve our accountability and to approve our performance throughout this organisation.”

Cr Guise said he was “shocked by this turn of events” when he learned the ARIC chair wanted to see the committee suspended until further notice.

Council voted in favour 6-5 to request the committee continue its scheduled work and conduct a review of its procedures.