Regional council focus on oversight

An audit and risk committee will be formed to ensure Otago Regional Council is keeping up with law changes, is accountable and its processes are robust.

Council chairman Stephen Woodhead proposed the new committee at a meeting of the council this week, saying it was probably something the council should have had in place already.

While the council put a strong focus on ensuring its processes were robust and compliant, it was a challenging task in a ''forever changing legal framework'', he said.

Audit committees have been strongly recommended for both corporate and private organisations for many years. The auditor-general said in 2008 such committees had a valuable contribution to make in improving the governance, and thus the performance and accountability, of public entities.

''An effective audit committee shows that an organisation is committed to a culture of openness and continuous improvement.''

Mr Woodhead said he had taken advice from chief executive Peter Bodeker and from mayors and chairmen of other councils before coming to the conclusion it was appropriate for the council to set up an audit and risk committee.

''It will be responsible for working with a council's auditors, having an overview to ensure our legal, financial and performance monitoring processes are correct, efficient and effective.''

It would also ensure the council complied with statutory requirements and worked through investigations on aspects such as health and safety and complaints processes, he said.

He believed it would be good to have a independent member on the committee, alongside himself as chairman, deputy chairwoman Gretchen Robertson and the finance and corporate chairman David Shepherd.

It should be a stand-alone committee and how it would report back to council would need to be discussed as some issues ''might need to be out of the public eye'', he said.

Cr Shepherd said the committee sounded very useful and they were commonplace in the corporate world.

The council directed Mr Bodeker to investigate terms of reference for the new committee to present at the council's next meeting in February.

ORC

The sooner this money-sucking entity is no more the better - accountable, these people wouldn't know the meaning of the word - it's a bit like transparency really, they don't have a clue what that means either. [abridged]

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