'Greed, incompetence' at City of Perth

WA Premier Mark McGowan says the inquiry's findings vindicate the suspension of Perth City Council.
WA Premier Mark McGowan says the inquiry's findings vindicate the suspension of Perth City Council.

A culture of self-interest at the City of Perth allowed greed, incompetence and mismanagement to flourish, a damning report has found.

The 2000-page report tabled in Western Australia's parliament on Tuesday reveals more than 135 matters - many concerning suspected criminal behaviour - have been referred to state and commonwealth authorities for further investigation.

Two organisations and 23 individuals, including council members and senior administration figures, have been referred in relation to the matters.

Any matters of concern would need to be considered by the relevant authorities and the referrals did not confirm any wrongdoing, Commissioner Tony Power said.

The probe was launched following a failure by Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi to disclose travel and gifts, reports of infighting between councillors, two chief executives taking stress leave and the suspension of the council in March 2018.

Among the issues identified were councillors and candidates using sham leases to become eligible to stand for election, a lack of disclosure of financial interests and excessive use of a lavish dining room at ratepayers' expense.

Councillors also used their position to advance personal business interests.

"Regrettably, the culture of the city has been characterised by self-interest, complacency, lack of accountability, lack of transparency and a lack of effective leadership," Mr Power said.

"These traits have provided fertile ground for greed, incompetence and mismanagement to flourish."

The report said Ms Scaffidi had fostered a factional leadership, creating a WhatsApp messaging group which included half a dozen colleagues and often contained "childish and spiteful" observations about other council members.

Ms Scaffidi has previously admitted breaking the law by instructing a fellow councillor how to vote in regards to a heritage listing for a property she had a significant financial interest in.

Local Government Minister David Templeman said further matters could come to light in coming weeks with charges potentially being laid by authorities.

He said the inquiry had cost $7.2 million but the state government intended to exercise its legislative powers to retrieve that cost from the City of Perth.

Steps have since been taken to address many of the city's failings with commissioners running the council for the past couple of years.

Elections are due in October.

Premier Mark McGowan earlier labelled the report "damning".

"I think it justifies the actions we took in relation to the City of Perth," he said.

"Hopefully after the election in October, the City of Perth will move on from a very, very sad and disappointing period."

Mr Power delivered his report to the government in June with more than 250 findings and 341 recommendations.

WA Police confirmed at the time a number of matters were being investigated.

The City of Perth has 35 days to advise what it has done or intends to do in regards to the report's recommendations.

Australian Associated Press