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Mystery over $11.7m spend
Boroondara Council has released some details of its digital revamp, but key questions remain, writes Rebecca Di Nuzzo
The council insists its spend of almost $12 million covers a “digital transformation” rather than just a website – but details of how exactly the money is being spent remain unclear. Picture: Wayne Taylor
Boroondara Council has revealed some competing tenders for its $11.7 million website — but remained tightlipped about the most lucrative part, awarded to Deloitte.
Documents obtained by the Leader under Freedom of Information reveal 15 contracts, some worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, were doled out to companies under the council’s “digital transformation” project.
Two contracts, including one worth more than $600,000 for “website solution design, information architecture and content development”, and a $278,840 tender for “security performance testing”, cost more than the total amount spent by other Melbourne councils on their website overhauls, including neighbouring Stonnington, which spent about $350,000 in total.
The documents show the council mostly went with the cheaper option for the more minor parts of the project.
But it refused to disclose competing tenders for the priciest component — $9.5 million given to Deloitte for website “design, build, redevelopment, release and managed services” — because the tenderers objected to having their details revealed.
Money spent on the creation of eight eForms, which the council has repeatedly pointed to as being of great benefit to residents, was also not disclosed.
Paul Cousins of Web Initiatives said the open source system, Drupal, used by Deloitte to carry out the work, including merging six websites into one, was a free tool anyone could use.
He said he believed many of the other separate tenders, including for the development of eForm icons, could have been bundled in with Deloitte’s work, rather than farmed out as separate contracts.
He also added that from a “design point of view”, and without knowing what had gone into the back end of the project, he would have costed Boroondara’s new website at about $300,000.
“The website looks terrific, it looks good,” Mr Cousins said.
“I don’t know what value the community’s getting out of that. Clearly there would have been other options that wouldn’t have cost $9.5 million.”
Another expert, Renato Dayan of Light Media, said the cost of Boroondara’s web project was “extraordinary”, and his company, which had also overhauled council websites, charged “a fraction of that amount”.
It was difficult to tell whether the $9.5 million contract awarded to Deloitte was too much, he said, because the FOI document contained insufficient information about their work.
Ratepayers Victoria president Jack Davis said the cost of the project was “ridiculous” and called for greater oversight on councils.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous the amount of money councils spend on contractors. The average minister has no idea what’s going on in local government,” he said.
And Balwyn North’s Ian Hundley said his request for a public meeting so residents could learn more about the project was “summarily dismissed” and the lack of transparency was worrying.
He also said the language used to describe the project in council meeting agendas was “opaque”, making it difficult to understand what was being delivered.
“I think there should be a process for an independent examination on this,” he said.
Earlier this year the Leader spoke to 12 other councils about their website projects, all of which put the cost at between $61,640 (Nillumbik) and $2 million (Darebin) and included work such as merging separate websites, the creation of eForms and maintenance.
Boroondara chief executive Phil Storer said the $11.7 million spend was an appropriate use of ratepayer cash and the project could incur further costs.
Almost 200,000 users accessed the site between January and March, he said, and it was “misleading” to compare the price of different council websites without knowing what each council had delivered.
The council also got new computer hardware as part of the project, he said, and the tender process ensured it got the best price.
Local Government Minister Marlene Kairouz did not respond to the Leader’s questions last week.
It’s absolutely ridiculous, the amount of money councils spend on contractors
JACK DAVIS, RATEPAYERS VICTORIA
Rebecca Di Nuzzo
June 12 2018
Ratepayers Victoria were recently requested to assist with the formation of a ratepayer group in Sale,(Wellington Shire council).
RPV Attended a call to hold public meeting in Sale on the 13th June 2018 with the purpose to set up a ratepayer group in that area.
Some 20 people attended this meeting which was compered by RPV(Vice President Frank Sullivan)
It was explained to those attendees that the benefits of having a Ratepayer group so ratepayers have somewhere to go to for advice and guidance regarding problems they are having with their council.
This is the sixth ratepayer group which RPV have set up in the last 8 months ,they been
Geelong – Bendigo- Shepparton – Warrnambool – Maribyrnong- Sale.
Ratepayers Victoria encourage you to contact your your local Ratepayer group as there are great benefits for the ratepayer to be a member.
Jack Davis President
Ratepayers Victoria recently visited Warrnambool to oversee a public meeting with the purpose of setting up a new ratepayer group in Warrnambool.
Some 60 people attended the meeting held on the 16th May 2018.
The driving force behind the meeting was Ann Vickery, a Local resident.
RPV did a local newspaper report some days prior to the meeting to tell the local residents when and where the meeting was and what are the benefits of a ratepayer group in Warrnambool.
Ann Vickery agreed on the night to be the coordinator to set up the new committee and the feedback from Warrnambool is that they are now up and running.
Any local residents who are interested in joining the group contact Ann by email email@example.com or mobile 0408986302.
Ratepayers Victoria will be attending a public meeting on the 30th May, 2018 at the Dream Factory, 90 Maribyrnong Street, Footscray between 6.30pm to 9.30pm.
It would seem that the meeting has been called by a group of concerned residents about the operations of the Maribyrnong Council.
At present there is little or no accountability at council level and RPV hope to change that.
At a conference held by RPV for our ratepayer groups around Victoria, a theme was adopted at the conference “enough is enough”
Come along to this meeting it is your council and have your say. Apathy is our worst enemy.
Wellington Shire Council
Ratepayers Victoria have been requested to oversee a public meeting in Sale on the 13th June 2018 with the purpose to form a new ratepayer group in Sale which is the Wellington Shire Council
The public meeting will be held at the “Mary Field Hall” in Petit Drive, Sale near the railway station at 7.00, RPV will be doing an article for the local newspaper to publicize the meeting shortly.
Yes, it is your council so come along and make your council more accountable. RPV feel that our ratepayers are saying “enough is enough”
Vice President Frank Sullivan
Contact 0438 555 805
Council———– Staff Expeniture—-Total expences——Wages % of all expenses
Banyle———— —67,3109————–144,669——————-46.40 %
BOROONDARA—– 91,951————– 217,103——————-42.40 %
GEELONG———–155,210—————354,546– ——————-43.80 %
GT DANDENONG—78,813—————179,60—————————43.90 %
GLEN EIRA———-72,481—————163,366———————-44.40 %
HOBSONS BAY——–58.564—————120,627———————-48.50 %
MOONEY VALLEY—–84,038—————155,618———————–54.00 %
PORT PHILLIP——-96,974—————221,012———————-43.90 %
YARRA RANGES——-69,117—————167,896———————-41.209 %
Up grade not finalized
Victorian Ombudsman Report
Investigation into Wodonga City Council’s overcharging of a waste management levy April 2018
The three Rs of local government are, famously, roads, rates and rubbish. While all three feature regularly in complaints to the Ombudsman, this case concerns ‘rubbish’ – or more specifically, a waste management charge levied by a local council in which over 30 per cent of the revenue raised was used to fund services other than waste management. Wodonga City Council raised some $18 million surplus over the last decade through this charge – money that was indeed spent on council services, such as parks and playgrounds. But not on waste. As every ratepayer knows, councils raise funds for general services through rates. While the council argues it has been transparent, did the average ratepayer in Wodonga really know they were paying extra in waste charges to subsidise other council services? Or when they received their annual rates bill and saw the line item for waste management, did they think they were paying solely for this essential service? The council said it acted in good faith, believing the practice to be compliant with the Local Government Act, and that they consulted the community. I accept that the legislation does not explicitly require the council to recover only its reasonable costs. However, the intent is clear. And our investigation found they maintained the practice, among other things, to avoid ‘unnecessary negative public reaction which may result from shifting the charges [to general rates]’. A widespread adoption of this approach creates the risk that councils could charge ratepayers an arbitrary figure for waste services, to be used on anything related to council activities, while avoiding the scrutiny that invariably attaches to rate rises. While this practice long pre-dated rate capping, it raises issues about how revenue is raised, in an era when far greater transparency is expected of government. Although the council suggested the waste charge is ‘revenue neutral’ for ratepayers, as the money would have been recouped anyway in some form, this misses the point. As Local Government Victoria pointed out, funding council services through a flat fee also raises issues of inequity and regressive taxation, as it is unrelated to a person’s capacity to pay. Rate capping – which has been in effect since July 2016 – does put financial pressures on councils, especially rural councils with a smaller rate base and, often, ageing infrastructure. But those financial pressures need to be faced head on, in partnership with their communities, rather than buried in the financial fine print. The financial pressures on councils and their communities are likely to increase with the latest developments in recycling household waste. All the more reason for councils to be open and transparent with ratepayers about the true costs of a service. I am pleased this council has accepted my recommendation that they reduce their waste management charge to only recover the reasonable cost of the service provided. But 72 of the 79 Victorian councils have separate waste charges, and I encourage them to satisfy themselves that the charge reasonably reflects the service provided. To do otherwise is to undermine the public’s trust in how their money is spent.
Deborah Glass Ombudsman
Corruption in local council’s
Whitehorse council $150.000 for Council 20th birthday Party Herald Sun 28/7/2014
Herald sun 27/7/2014 Wyndham Leads councils in suit over unpaid Rates
Herald sun 28/7/2014 Knox Councillor John Mortimore didn’t Sign Conflict of interest declaration when giving $500 of ward funds to Newspaper he edits
Cr Robertson of the central Goldfields shire was charged with 2 counts of offences in 2012 following the incident and was found guilty of abusing his position. Ratepayers hit with $70,000 bill to cover guilty Cr Robertson legal expenses.
Monash Leader 21/10/2014 Monash Council proposes to sell Hanover st carpark to build a 7 storey development, public outcry, project abandon.
Herald sun 2/11 2014 ACMA clears Today tonight of any wrongdoing over its coverage of Monash council’s plans to sell age care homes. Today Tonight stated that council was Sneaky and heartless.
9/2014 Rpv letter to council. Wellington Shire hard stand on ratepayer over no payment of rates due to extreme hard ship.
Herald sun 17/9/2014 Moreland Council ; Mayor’s Shameless excuse over failed CCTV installation exposed after the Jill Meagher case.
Mornington Leader newspaper 16/12/2014 Mixed views on call for capped rates at Mornington Peninsula Shire.
Ipswich Council Minister to stand down, Mayor (labor member) stood down over fraud charges
Monash Councillor Guilty of Sexual Harassment / credit card fraud, proven by the Federal Police
Monash Councillor wastes $2 Million trying to sell public open space 90 % ratepayer opposed the sale.
Monash Councillor provided false information in council in regards to hall management, committee sacked, later proven false by council audit
Brighton Council accused of fraudulent book keeping By George Reynold’s
Mornington Council Suing the MAV for $1 million over insurance.
WODONGA Council. Class action Extra $9.1 million for waste collection
The Ombudsman department stated they were not impressed with Mildura MRCC It was clear they were abusing the system.
Sister Cities are nothing more than holiday destinations for councillors
Municipal Association VICTORIA ( MAV) receive $52million of rate payers funds each year and growing, AND DO NOT REPRESENT RATEPAYERS.
Mildura Rural City Rates Collected by Council (MRCC) increased by 50.2% Wages/ salaries increased by 42/% Inflation increased for the same period 17/%
Wodonga the Ombudsman revealed an $18 million overcharge over a decade This has lead to a class action by ratepayers.
3AW Melbourne 13th May 2018 Ratepayers victoria calls for more accountabilty in council’s
The list goes on and on where is the Minister for local Government????
• Boder Mail ;
Sophie Boyd 27/4/18
Lawyer says culture ‘toxic’ at Wodonga Council and class action possible
Wangaratta lawyer John Suta, and a senior solicitor at Shine Lawyers confirmed Wodonga Council has opened itself up to a possible class action by ratepayers, after the Ombudsman revealed an $18 million overcharge over a decade.
Shine Lawyer’s senior solicitor Tristan Gaven said he was interested in holding a town hall meeting to inform residents about their rights.
“We believe there may be a basis for a class action based on a claim for restitution by the ratepayers,” Mr Gaven said.
Ratepayers were overcharged thus bringing financial loss and damage on ratepayers – it’s ratepayers money not councils.
Wangaratta lawyer John Suta on a potential class action against Wodonga Council
While there may be issues in relation to limitation periods for amounts paid more than six years ago, in the event that an action was successful, ratepayers would be entitled to recover all charges that were held to be invalid by the court plus interest.”
Mr Suta told The Border Mail one of his clients, who worked as a strategic asset manager from January 2007, complained about the actions of senior staff to the Ombudsman.
“My client made a complaint to the Ombudsman under an alias, as at the time they were still employed by council,” Mr Suta said.
“The complaint was basically that (they were) overcharging for waste services above the cost of the services, subjecting the community to excess charges and inflicting a financial cost on ratepayers.”Mr Suta said ratepayers, as a whole, were overcharged by $3.37 million in 2015-16 alone and $3.033 million in 2016-17 at an individual cost of $90.90 to each ratepayer in 2016 and $74.99 in 2017, Mr Suta said.
“What council did was they undertook a course of action where there was significant financial cross-subsidisation from waste to other departments, which obviously was not the real cost to service,” he said. But, he said, it was up to the public to decide if they wanted to take action on principle.
“Ratepayers were overcharged thus bringing financial loss and damage on ratepayers, it’s ratepayers money not council’s,” he said.
“It could place a principle financial burden on council, but transparency should override the financial burden on council, never mind the fact of public trust.”
Mr Suta said former employees at council say the culture is “toxic”, and said resigning was “absolutely the right thing” for Wodonga chief executive Patience Harrington to do.
• Quilty hints at rate rise for city
• Ratepayers deserve better than ‘excuses’ from council: Tilley
• Councillors break ranks, claim issue ‘much worse than anything we’d been told’
• Public was misled and council failed to be transparent: Councillors
• Wodonga Council’s ‘intent was clear’ in overcharging for waste, says Ombudsman
• President Jack Davis Ratepayers Victoria states the buck stops with the CEO and calls for the dismissal of the CEO CR Harrington
“Enough is Enough” It was interesting to note that in Japan they burn their waste this in turn creates energy to provide Electricity
All Council in Australia are about to increase rates due to the cost to dispose of our garbage, note below letter sent to the Minister for Environment
28th April 2018
Minister for Environment.
Hon Lily D’Ambrosio
Some three years ago ,a Knox Councilor ,Tony Holland ,was visiting Japan and was on a tour of the countryside ,when he observed these large furnaces and on inquiring from the tour guide what were they were used for and was told that these furnaces are used in Japan to dispose of their waste ,using a system
Gas- Ification ,which they say burns the waste to a dust and the system is very environmentally friendly
Cr.Holland said in a conversation with me this morning , that he was aware that the company that uses this process did come to Australia to discuss this system ,but was not aware of any further action by our people in Australia
Ratepayers Victoria were recently interviewed by Channel 2 News to discuss the waste problem and stated that we here in Australia have to explore the situation” is there a better way to dispose of our waste” .We are all aware of recent developments where China is not now receiving some of our waste from Australia
RPV are not impressed by recent comments by the MAV and also some councils that because of this problem that rates will have to increase .That is the easy way out .Have the appropriate people investigated the matter” is there a solution to this recycling problem”
We at RPV are no experts in this field ,but we owe it to our ratepayers to get the appropriate people to explore every avenue to see is there a solution to this problem without increasing rates.
RPV are aware that in some countries ,residents are very particular in what I goes in their waste bins
Minister ,if you feel there is any way that RPV can assist with this problem ,please feel free to contact us
I have copied in this email to our President of RPV ,Jack Davis.
Vice president RPV
Ratepayers Victoria (RVP) Workshop, which was held on Saturday 24th March 2018 at Ratcliff Community Hall had a good turn out of ratepayer members who attended despite the extremely bad weather. The mood of the workshop was very positive.
It was decided that RPV have to have a theme such as when Gough Whitlam used a theme “Its Time” back in a Federal election in the mid seventies.
The theme voted on by members was “Enough is Enough” and RPV encourage all members to use this catch phrase where possible.
There were four major items that came out of the workshop that RPV will advertise in the media.
It was discussed and accepted by members that ratepayers require a Local Government Ombudsman as now in place, a Telecommunications Ombudsman, a Water Ombudsman and so on.
If this is possible then this appointment has to have ”teeth”. The appointment would have to be an independent appointment answerable to someone like the Chief Municipal Inspectorate. This body’s decisions would be final.
There was concern from those attending on how the developer contribution plan (DCP) is been handled. This fund is where a developer pays a contribution to a Council based on the projected cost of the project. 10% of that project is to be put into a trust fund at the council for future infrastructure and other projects such as open space.
In the new draft there is no mention of this DCP which was put into the local government act back in 1989. Some councils are using this plan, others seem not to be. There are many millions of dollars involved in this plan and ratepayers are the losers when these monies are not being collected. In the new act it is the responsibility of the 78 councils in Victoria as to how they are to handle this DCP
There is concern that in the draft of the new act there is no mention of any accountability regarding the use of the corporate council credit card. It was reported in the media last year that a country CEO was charged with 67 offences with the alleged misuse of the corporate credit card. How could this happen. In the draft of the new act there is no mention as to any accountability regarding the control of council credit cards. RPV are recommending that the councils audit committee, who meet every three months, should monitor these credit card payments. It’s reported in the South Australia media that all of the 68 councils in S.A. are been investigated by the Auditor general regarding the use of the council credit card. It is beyond belief that there is nothing in the new act regarding the control of the credit card in Victoria.
Implementing a plan regarding the handling of complaints at councils seems to have hit a brick wall. Back in March 2015 the ombudsman Debra Glass made a stinging attack on how complaints were been handled at councils. The then LG Minister Natalie Hutchins stated that she would legislate to have an independent body handle complaints. Minister Hutchins is now in another portfolio and it would seem that nothing has happened. In the draft of the new act it is stated that an independent body will be set up to handle complaints, but this independent body will be set up by council with no ratepayers involvement.