New Chief Executive Dawn Baxendale says Christchurch City Council has moved swiftly to address concerns raised by the Chief Ombudsman about the organisation’s official information practices.
The Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier reviewed the Council’s Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) compliance and practices between October 2018 and July 2019.
His review found that while there are areas of good practices, some do not support openness and transparency.
The Ombudsman has recommended the Council’s Chief Executive review the practice of the Executive Leadership Team’s involvement in controlling the flow of information to elected members and the public to ensure openness and transparency.
Based on his findings, the Council has put in place a 39-step improvement plan that will ensure better practices.
In his report, the Chief Ombudsman said he was encouraged by how then Acting Chief Executive, Mary Richardson, and then Incoming Chief Executive, Dawn Baxendale, had responded to the issues identified in his review.
“It is clear to me that the leadership team is serious about ensuring the behaviours identified as part of this investigation will not be tolerated at Christchurch City Council.
"I am confident that the Council has put the building blocks in place to regain the trust of staff, elected members and the public and it is committed to creating an environment that promotes openness and transparency, and this is championed by leaders at all levels,’’ the Chief Ombudsman said.
Mrs Baxendale says the Chief Ombudsman’s review is extremely valuable in that it identifies areas for improvement in the Council’s practices and culture and recommends how the Council can address them.
“From my perspective we can and will do things better. I am totally committed to the Council conducting our decision-making and day-to-day work in an open and transparent manner,” Mrs Baxendale says.
“I totally accept the views of Chief Ombudsman. We must be open and transparent with our information. We must respond to elected members and the public in an open and honest way – I will be driving a culture change through all levels of our organisation,” Mrs Baxendale says.
“The organisation had already put in place an Improvement Plan to lift our performance. This plan has agreed milestones and clear expectations. I will make the implementation of this plan a priority for my Executive Leadership Team to deliver.
“Leaders at all levels of the Council will provide consistent and clear messages to staff about the vital role the timely and accurate release of information has in assisting people to understand how and why decision are made,” Mrs Baxendale says.
LGOIMA training will become mandatory for all staff and elected members. Systems, processes and protocols are being put in place to embed the proactive and transparent release of information into how the Council does business.
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel says she is 100 per cent supportive of the work being done to improve the Council’s official information practices.
“We are absolutely committed to the principles of openness and transparency that underpin the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act,’’ Mayor Dalziel says.