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Council Transition Support Expert Interview: Geoff Haberfeld, finance, governance, and risk specialist

LKS Quaero is offering a complete package of Council Transition Support for amalgamating NSW Councils. This is part of a series of interviews in which our transition expert team members pass on some key nuggets of advice.

Geoff Haberfeld consults in finance, governance, and risk. A former senior executive in Commonwealth and State Government business enterprises and policy agencies, he has a good understanding of the “workings of government,” including budget processes, funding arrangements, and regulatory regimes.

Well experienced in organisational reform, Geoff has held senior roles in a variety of organisations during times of significant change. His experience ranges across local, state, and federal government, including water, health, and housing. Geoff is also Deputy Chair of the Cairns Regional Council Audit Committee and Chair of the Douglas Shire Council Audit Committee. Here is his advice for leaders of amalgamating Councils in NSW.

What are the characteristics of a successful amalgamation process?

A successful amalgamation will be characterised by a united and sustainable organisation sharing common goals and aspirations, achieved by a well thought out transition process and strong stakeholder engagement.

Early attention should be given to:

  • Appointing a transition team representing all stakeholders, meeting regularly and supported by a good practice risk based project management framework
  • Commencing a communication program involving all staff regularly, utilising face to face, email, and social media
  • Developing a new organisation structure and communicating it to all staff
  • Developing an ICT Strategy encompassing the IT infrastructure, business and technical applications, and communications applications, including customer interfaces
  • Developing position papers for addressing key factors having an impact upon long term financial sustainability, including a common rating system and common service levels
  • Commencing a financial due diligence review

What should the CFOs of amalgamating councils be doing right now to prepare?

The NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet publication entitled Preparing for Change: Guidance for Councils (February 2016), pp. 30-33, sets out what CFOs should be doing during the preparation phase. This involves essentially conducting a financial due diligence check and considering a range of potential tasks.

Key matters that CFOs should give early attention to in addition to issues raised in the DPC document include:

  • Ensuring a communication program for all finance staff is in place, complementing the whole entity program
  • Establishing a joint finance function work team staffed by members of each amalgamating organisation and developing a detailed project plan reflecting key milestones for inclusion in the overall project plan
  • Finalising the due diligence review for each amalgamating organisation as a priority
  • Developing position papers for addressing key factors impacting long term financial sustainability, including a common rating system and common service levels
  • Ensuring a sound internal control framework is maintained by each amalgamating organisation, including reviewing the fraud control plan
  • Ensuring the new Finance function is well represented on each individual work team and in particular the ICT work team

How can you assist with the amalgamation process?

I am well experienced in organisational reform, from the development of the initial business case options to the detailed project planning and implementation of the transition to the new entity. I specialise in finance, governance, and risk and my reform experience has been gained in Local Government, State Government and Commonwealth entities. I believe very strongly that the key to successful amalgamation depends on sound project management and strong stakeholder engagement over each stage of the project.

At LKS Quaero, we offer support to new Councils across culture and leadership, strategy development, financial analysis and advice, industrial relations, structure and recruitment. Transitioning to a new entity represents a massive opportunity. It’s a chance to re-set the vision, strategy, and culture for a new organisation. At the same time, there are pitfalls to be avoided across all areas of operations. See our Council Transition Support page for more information. If you’d like to know more, visit us at lksquaero.com or follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

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