An early task for this new Council will be to appoint a new CEO.
Having a CEO who has a history of experience in Councils is a clear handicap to all rate payers and should be avoided like the plague!
At around $305,000 per annum the CEO might be the highest paid person in the City of Onkaparinga but that’s not the only reason we should choose with care.
This may sound backward but I believe it’s critical to have a CEO who has not been immersed in the Council culture of questionable deals and unsustainable practices more aligned with a mentality of ‘jobs for the boys’ and political shenanigans than of sound business practices.
Some people see Council as just a stepping stone to State Government, other political office or of promoting their own businesses. Furthermore the tasks of the day are very often controlled by lawyers who manipulate Councillors to ‘toe the line’ of the establishment by bullying them, threatening censure and by the use of charges and threats of charges of bullying against them or trumped up charges of conflict of interest, or of revealing confidential documents or documents they reasonably should have known were confidential.
We need a CEO who has not had to survive in that sort of toxic environment.
The best choice of CEO could be one who has extensive experience in a large commercial building company. A residential builder might not have the full range of experience but this should be judged on a case by case basis.
Ideally they should also have experience in submitting tenders for government contracts because it would give them knowledge of the rorts that happen in these processes and so be the best ones to steer Council around them. A commercial builder would also be well acquainted with the demands of clients who in turn have their own clients all demanding contracts that give good competitive prices and outcomes.
The right CEO would probably have some ideas on how to streamline the tendering process since they would have been on the other end of this in the past.
Every rate payer who ever wanted to build a home knew they should get a fixed price contract and/or a contract with all sorts of penalty clauses included for late delivery but apparently no government department has ever heard of such crazy things. How often do we hear of some government project, or other, having a blow out of construction costs?! The new RAH is a prime example. Who would build anything this way except for some ‘government experts’.
The right CEO would have a work history of delivering good commercial results and have a firm understanding of what efficiencies are all about. Hopefully they might agree that approval times for new buildings, extensions and land subdivisions etc could be reduced to 30 days. No one thinks this will be possible in every case but I’m reliably told by a builder who worked with this Council when it began in 1997 that it was originally only 14 days.
The CEO could introduce performance criteria and KPIs for key personnel, competency assessment of all managers, provide a report on all positions, departments and projects within Council and provide a functional organisational report on all operations with a view to giving recommendations on cost savings, restructuring and possible redundancies.
Introducing a system of resource sharing with other councils could mean big savings. As an example the majority of the 68 councils in South Australia would have a fully functional road crew and road plant equipment so sharing these resources between councils could see big changes in total costs.
Getting the right person who can work with an independent Chartered Accountant to conduct a Forensic Audit to provide the information required to know where this Council is headed will be fundamental to what needs to be done. The current Council would say this has all been done but I insist it has not been done adequately until we know the cost of each project and cost of each department operating within the bureaucracy.
The budget has been divided into categories that are not always helpful and don’t give us the full picture.
Have a look at the Annual Business Plan 2022-23 and particularly have a look at the Budget on page 37 & 38 to see what I mean. Why is there no category for Legal fees, just to name one?
Making the wrong appointment could just mean more of the ‘same old same old’ that we have been conditioned to accept … up until now.