Councils provide a range of services which have a direct impact on the amenity, safety and health of their communities. These services need to meet the needs and expectations of their communities, as well as relevant regulatory requirements set by state and federal governments. Councils have a high level of autonomy in decisions about how and to whom they provide services, so it is important that local communities have access to information about how well they are being delivered and meeting community needs. Ultimately councils should aim to ensure that reporting performance is subject to quality controls designed to provide independent assurance.
While councils report on outputs, reporting on outcomes and performance over time can be improved. Improved reporting would include objectives with targets that better demonstrate performance over time. This would help communities understand what services are being delivered, how efficiently and effectively they are being delivered, and what improvements are being made.
To ensure greater transparency on service effectiveness and efficiency, the Office of Local Government (OLG) should work with councils to develop guidance principles to improve reporting on service delivery to local communities. This audit identified an interest amongst councils in improving their reporting and broad agreement with the good practice principles developed as part of the audit.
The Integrated Planning and Reporting Framework (the Framework), which councils are required to use to report on service delivery, is intended to promote better practice. However, the Framework is silent on efficiency reporting and provides limited guidance on how long-term strategic documents link with annual reports produced as part of the Framework. OLG's review of the Framework, currently underway, needs to address these issues.