Fresh questions are being asked about the disclosure of gifts at the City of Perth, just three days after Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi returned to office.
Audits by the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries have revealed elected members and staff at both the City of Perth and the City of Joondalup may have failed to disclose event tickets received as gifts, and declare financial interests when sponsorship matters were being considered by council.
In a statement, the department said it had obtained information which showed the volume, value and nature of gifts could be inconsistent with obligations to use public resources appropriately.
The inquiry relates to past and current elected members and staff, which will include the newly-elected City of Joondalup Mayor, and former Liberal Minister, Albert Jacob.
Mrs Scaffidi said she had nothing to fear, and questioned the timing of the announcement.
“The bottom line to all of this is the timing is curious,” she said.
“Why is it not sector-wide, why is it just two local governments?
“I’ll allow other people to draw their own conclusions about how it looks.”
The audits looked at 10 councils with sponsorship arrangements, five in the metro area and five in the country.
A department statement said while they did not appear to show systemic issues of concern relating to gifts and sponsorship, there were issues with the City of Perth and City of Joondalup that required further examination.
Mrs Scaffidi said the City of Perth would fully cooperate with the inquiry, but said it should be noted the council had alerted the department in June 2016 that it had independently found issues with its own gift policies and subsequently made sweeping changes.
“It has certainly taken a long time for that notification to result into an inquiry as it has just this week,” Mrs Scaffidi said.
The department has not provided details about which councillors or mayors may be implicated in the inquiries.
In September, Mrs Scaffidi was banned from office by the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT), which found she had breached the Local Government Act on 45 occasions.
The breaches included trips to the Beijing Olympics and Cable Beach in Broome, paid for by BHP and Hawaiian Investments and worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Mrs Scaffidi successfully challenged the ban, with WA’s Court of Appeal throwing out 26 of the alleged 45 breaches of the act, in a decision in December.
Ms Scaffidi had stepped down from Mayoral duties pending the appeal and this week returned to office.
A decision on the remaining 19 breaches is expected late next month.
Local Government Minister David Templeman said on Tuesday he would have preferred Mrs Scaffidi to not return to work until after the remaining breaches had been dealt with.
“We’ve still got a process to play out, be it frustrating and elongated, it’s still a process … I would’ve preferred that she continued to step aside until that process has been finalised,” Mr Templeman said.
“At the end of the day all of us want to see a fully functioning, dynamic City of Perth and to do that, you need an effective City of Perth council.”
The City of Joondalup said it had worked closely with the department’s audit and would cooperate fully with any future requests or inquiries.