Council clowns are a costly joke

Council clowns are a costly joke
Victorian councils criticised for social and political meddling
JOHN MASANAUSKAS and JESSE WRAY-MCCANN, Herald Sun
LOCAL councils are under fire for meddling in controversial issues like flying political flags, promoting indigenous treaties and raising century-old ethnic disputes.
Councillors have been told to stick to basics like collecting rubbish and fixing roads instead of focusing on social and political matters outside their jurisdictions.
MINISTER TELLS COUNCIL TO FLY RAINBOW FLAG
The City of Monash is divided over a bid by some councillors to discuss ways of recognising the Armenian genocide which occurred a century ago.
Monash Mayor Rebecca Paterson took the extraordinary step of issuing a statement accusing the councillors of stoking unnecessary controversy by pitting one ethnic group against another.

This matter may be appropriate to be debated in the Australian Parliament, but it is not appropriate for our council chamber,” she said.
However, one of the councillors, Josh Fergeus, said the debate “remains a live issue” for the council that will require detailed consultations with the community
YARRA’S VIETNAM FLAG STOUSH
City of Yarra councillors have voted to temporarily fly the so-called Co Vang flag, which is a Vietnamese community symbol linked to the South Vietnamese regimen which was defeated by the Communist forces in 1975.
State Vietnamese Community president Vivien Nguyen said the flag represented the identity and heritage of the community and its refugee background.
“We are proud of our heritage, we are proud of our identity and we want to show the broader community as a contribution to overall multiculturalism in our society,” she said.
But Evan Mulholland of free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, said voters elect councillors to focus on fixing local roads and collecting their rubbish.
“Councillors have no jurisdiction to comment on international affairs, refugees, or marriage.
“They should do that in their own time as private citizens rather than spending our money,” he said.
Meanwhile, Moreland Council is tomorrow due to debate a motion by Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton to organise a “major public forum” to discuss a treaty with local Aborigines.
However, a council officer’s comments on the idea said the State Government was handling treaty negotiations with indigenous groups.
“At this stage it is uncertain what role local government has to negotiate such a treaty,” the officer said.
The officer said that depending on how large and formal the forum was it could cost up to $5000 including money spent on external speakers, catering, sound and lighting.
Among other issues, many councils fly pro-LGBTI community flags, put up ”welcome refugees” banners and spend ratepayers’ funds on providing aid to local governments in East Timor.
john.masanauskas@news.com.au

letter to all mayors re excessive rates

Ratepayers Victoria Inc.

Dear Mayors of Local Councils of Victoria. Local government Minister Natalia Hutchins and Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews

Ratepayers Victoria committee member Frank Sullivan and myself were recently invited to meet Nillumbik Mayor, Peter Clarke to discuss local government issues.
Peter was appointed Mayor of Nillumbik Council last October after council elections.
Peter’s first duty was to investigate the present running of his council.
He decided to dispose of the Mayoral car and with additional savings of registration and insurance this resulted in a saving of approx. $ 50.000 over four years
The mayor also reduced his Mayoralty remuneration by 10%
He decided with the support of his fellow councilors that a new Chief Executive Officer was to be appointed
The first major duty of the new CEO was to remove the present four senior directors and that no more than 57% of incoming revenue would be used on salaries.
Cr. Clarke stated that this would lead to realignment of staff with fewer managers and more staff on the ground .The council also froze salaries and decided that there will be no rate increase next financial year.
Another massive saving was the slashing of advertising in the local newspaper that promoted the Mayor.
The State Government will introduce revaluations every year .This will cost council’s 41 Million annually with no financial benefit to councils .This decision will affect every council in Victoria.
Cr. Clarke made an excellent comment in that council decided to do an audit on surplus council land in Nillumbik and with the sale of this land resulted in $25 million for their council.
Ratepayers Victoria ask that if Nillumbik Council can make savings as such, why cannot your council make these savings also.
At the meeting on the 19th May 2017 with Cr. Clarke he stated that Ratepayers Victoria should engage with the Municipal Association of Victoria.
He said that there has been a very significant change at the MAV and considers now is the time for RPV to communicate with them.
RPV are aware that in an article in the Herald Sun on the 9th March 2015, the Andrews Government said they may review the role on the MAV. At present RPV is not aware of any significant change at the MAV.
RPV consider that with rate capping with us, now is the time for councils to act as Nillumbik council has .If councils are not prepared to address the financial problems at councils such as addressing the spending RPV consider that now is the time for the Government to consider reverting to AMMINISTRATORS to be appointed at our councils.

Yours’s sincerely
Jack Davis
Acting President

Cost cutting by Nillumbik Mayor

Heraldsun 9/5/17 Mayor Challenges peers by Ian Royall
The Mayor of an outer Melbourne council that is freezing residents rates next year, says his counterparts aren’t doing enough to cut costs.
Nillumbik is set to be the only Victorian Council to put a hold on rates next year,
Defying many who will push for rises of up to 2 per cent.
Mayor Peter Clarke claimed other councils were automatically putting up their rates by 2 per cent – The current state government limit.
No Victorian Council froze rate bills in this current year.
As the state’s 79 Councils finalise their draft budgets for the next financial year.to an extended August31 deadline,Cr Clarke said local governments had to be “smarter”
the former Melbourne city councillor reduced his own income,sold the mayoral car and slashed advertising that promoted the mayor.
those three measures saved more than $100,000. Its not that hard to start finding the money, he said.
The council froze salaries and made four senior directors redundant last week
Cr Clarke said the exits were a realignment of staff” which meant fewer managers and more staff on the ground.
look at every line item in detail. I don’t think people are ding that.
” They look at what they did last year and then add more to it” he said ” I haven’t spoken to another mayor at another council who has said they’ve had a serious shot at not putting their rates up. They automatically went for the cap and said, “Why wouldn’t you do it.
Cr Clarke said he knew he was out of step with his counterparts across the state.
Our focus is what our ratepayers are telling us,not how much you can spend,he said. “Its about getting better services for the same dollar,” He said Nillumbik had a four year plan to retire debt to save an $800,000 annual interest bill, but no services would be cut. Municipal Association of Victoria chief executive Rob Spence said Cr Clarke did not understand other councils’problems, especially those in country areas with small populations and low rates revenue.
‘They are having to stop doing things because they don’t have enough money.” he said. Mr Spence said councils in growth areas were trying to cope with booming populations.
“Wyndham has 80 babies born a week.
The growth is massive and the council is struggling to keep up with the infrastructure requirements such as maternal and child health facilities.
So you can’t tarnish everyone with the same view”
Ian.royall@news.com.au

Comments to Jack_d@iinet.net.au
or phone 0412238974


Mayoral car stating that if he was to take use of the Mayoral car he would have to place his car in storage for the term of his Mayoralty. This resulted in an income from the sale of the Mayoral car with additional savings of registration and insurance over 4 years to be estimated at approximately $50,000 savings to Council.
He also reduced his Mayoralty remuneration by 10%.
A major step was to remove the CEO and appoint a replacement which resulted in the removal of four Senior Directors. Cr. Clarke stated that this led to realignment of staff which meant fewer Managers and more staff on the ground. Nillumbik Council froze salaries and will have no rate increase in the next financial year.
Another massive saving was the slashing of 1/4 page advert advertisement in the local newspaper which promoted the Mayor and was very expensive.
Cr. Clarke stated that most Council’s look at what they did last year and then added more to it. He said that he had spoken to another Mayor who said they automatically went for the 2% rate capping and said why wouldn’t you do it!
The State government will introduce revaluation every year and this will cost Council’s $41 million annually with no finical benefit to local governments. It is a State Government means of increasing their slice of the pie.
If Nillumbik Council can make savings for the Ratepayers why cannot other Councils.
Finally Cr. Clarke stated that he discovered that Nillumbik Council had $41 million in surplus land holdings and the sale of these assets could be used to upgrade existing facilities.
Ratepayers Victoria congratulate Cr. Clarke (Mayor of Nillumbik) as he is listening to his Ratepayers. All other Mayors should follow his example.

Jack Davis
Vice President
Ratepayers Victoria Inc.>

LG Review: Our Submission Paper

Public responses to the LG Review Discussion paper closed last week.

We issues our submission paper. The key highlights of our submission are:

  1. We conclude that the State Government’s proposed reform drivers for change are underpinned by the need for improving good governance capacity building in councils,  based on the principles of the Good Governance Guide.  The discussion paper identified the areas of significant improvements aka reforms are needed:
    • Community engagement
    • Integrated strategy planning and reporting
    • Decision making
    • Exercising Ministerial powers
    • Human resource & performance management
    • Ensuring fair & affordable property taxation

Rate Capping is now a reality

One behalf of Victorian ratepayers, Ratepayers Victorian would like to thank Minister Hutchins and her crew, other ALP MPs, Essential Services Commission (ESC) and Local Government Victoria (LGV)  for making this happen. We also like to extend our appreciation to the opposition Shadow LG Minister Davis and other Liberal MPs, who put aside their political differences in the interest of all Victorian ratepayers first, and supported the bill to be passed.Unfortunately the Greens did not support the bill.

The rate capping policy (also called the Fair Go Rates system) is a major win and a  Christmas present for ratepayers.

The bill bill was passed in the Legislative Council, becoming law after receiving  Royal Assent.  It will stop or reduce councils raising their rates above a cap, based on the Melbourne Consumer Price Index (CPI).  It is one of the first of many reforms to come, which would benefit ratepayers.

Local Government Victoria is also giving ratepayers a Christmas present too, the Know Your Council website.

VICTORIANS will be able to keep a closer eye on their councils thanks to a new website allowing users to compare local government performance.

The Know Your Council site was launched last night and provides detailed records on every metropolitan, regional and interface council in Victoria.”People now have access to information on 66 key indicators including rates revenue, expenditure, missed bin collections and even the number of missing pets found.Data on roads, maternal and child health, food safety, aquatic facilities and libraries is also available” (Herald Sun Leader, 27 Nov 2015).

The Key Performance Indicators’ (KPI) measures in this website will help ratepayers use the information to check on the good governance, financial. asset and service management performance of their councils. This means the opportunistic councils would like it more difficult to bamboozle their communities with BS in justifying their preferred decision directions and future rate rises above CPI. It is worthwhile for active ratepayers to understand how these KPI works – the information is in the Local Government Better Practice Guide Indicator Workbook

The Essential Services Commission (ESC) will have greater oversight of council spending, playing an important role in ensuring ongoing compliance and monitoring of overall outcomes for communities. Ratepayer Vic and our networks will help ensure councils comply 110% to the policy – watch this space develops.

IBAC red flags corruption risks in councils and outlines what to look out for

 Alistair MacleanAlistair Maclean, the CEO of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, Victoria’s anti-corruption agency responsible is red flagging corruption risks in councils.
The following is sourced from his write-up in The Mandarin (28 Sep 2015):
Procurement, misuse of information, conflicts of interest and criminal associations can all raise red flags at the local government level. IBAC’s chief corruption fighter in Victoria outlines what to look out for………

Procurement

Throughout the recent PTV and DET public hearings, we heard a consistent message that risks associated with procurement leave our public sector vulnerable to corruption. At both organisations, employees allegedly subverted procurement and contract management processes.

The amount of public funding committed to purchasing goods, services and works by councils surely makes procurement a major risk area for organisations in the local government sector. Yet in our Review of integrity frameworks in six Victorian councils, we found that procurement-related issues were considered low-risk by senior council managers and staff.

We’ve seen evidence of people manipulating tender processes by using false companies to bid. Other patterns, such as late bids being accepted or losing bidders being hired as sub-contractors by the successful bidder, have also been evident.

Invoicing patterns can tell an interesting story. Business areas often split contracts — with multiple contracts coming in just below the procurement threshold. And we’ve seen many instances of false, inflated or duplicate invoices.

A marked theme of our investigations has been the rorting of the frequent purchase of low-value items, precisely because they “slip under the wire” of thresholds and controls.

Learnings from Operation Continent

In 2013, we investigated allegations of corrupt conduct involving employees at a metropolitan council’s works depots — an investigation dubbed Operation Continent. This included allegations that fuel had been stolen, spare parts ordered fraudulently and particular contractors favoured.

While we weren’t able to establish that corrupt conduct had occurred, Operation Continent did establish the council had inadequate controls, including a lack of audits, segregation of duties and inadequate management of conflicts of interest.

Throughout the investigation, IBAC had great cooperation from the council, with its CEO leveraging off the investigation to effect cultural and organisational change.

The risks identified in Operation Continent are not isolated. Following our investigation, we undertook a broader Review of council works depots, focusing on the vulnerable areas of:

  • Procurement;
  • Management of bulk consumables;
  • Management of small plant and equipment; and
  • Leadership and culture.

We found that while councils generally complied with their own policies and procedures, and with legislative requirements, there were systemic, common weaknesses, including:

  • Allowing council employees or internal business areas to bid for council tenders;
  • Failing to submit or sight supporting documentation for awarding contracts;
  • Completing purchase orders after the delivery of goods and services and accompanying invoices;
  • Failing to adequately identify and manage procurement-related risks, such as conflicts of interest; and
  • Not providing the training or support required for employees to be able to report suspected corruption, without fear of reprisal.

Conflicts of interest

Conflict of interest is a common risk we see in allegations of corrupt conduct and in our investigations. Often the complaints we receive do little more than point out perceived or actual conflicts of interest, and assume that they constitute corrupt conduct.

Of course, the point is not whether there is a conflict of interest, but rather the way in which it is managed (or not). Gifts and benefits registers and declarations of secondary employment are common examples of an organisation’s response to such conflicts.

Another increasingly prevalent issue is associations outside of the workplace, specifically with members of organised crime groups. We recently released a report showing council employees are among those being targeted by criminals to gain information, influence decisions and manipulate systems.

Last year, IBAC investigated allegations that a council employee had stolen work equipment and given it to members of an outlaw motorcycle gang. After investigating, we recommended the council review its policies and procedures, especially in relation to declarable associations, and increase employee awareness of their obligations.

Simply by having greater awareness of this risk, councils will be better equipped to manage, and hopefully, mitigate. Included in our Organised crime group cultivation of public sector employees report are more strategies councils can implement to help mitigate the risk of employees being compromised by criminals.

Building a culture of integrity

Our integrity framework review identified that organisational culture and leadership is just as important as management controls when managing fraud and corruption risks. Without the right leadership and culture, the best set of policies and procedures in the world will often do little more than sit on the shelf, and be reliant on individual rather than collective effort.

Employees and management need to understand corruption risks, be appropriately trained, and be kept informed of emerging integrity issues. When that happens, they are better placed to prevent corrupt behaviour in the first place, and to identify and respond to corrupt conduct when it is occurring.

An important part of a robust integrity culture — at any level — is ensuring that people understand where to report any concerns, and that they feel comfortable and safe doing so.

The protected disclosure regime in Victoria is an important tool to support potential whistleblowers. It applies to councils as much as it does to any other public institution. Public sector agencies — including councils — are obliged to make information available to encourage people to report wrongdoing, with confidence in the protections available when they do so. There is some way to go in developing widespread acceptance of, and confidence in, the regime.

As part of our recent council review, a survey of 600 employees found that only 25% would be inclined to report instances of suspected corrupt conduct.

This result demonstrates how management must show its commitment to corruption prevention by:

  • Reassuring employees they will not be penalised or identified; and
  • reiterating that employees don’t need to have hard evidence to make a report.

Last year, IBAC reviewed the protected disclosure procedures established and implemented by government agencies. It found almost one in four agencies weren’t meeting their legal obligations in dealing with complaints and supporting whistleblowers. Four of the seven organisations identified as having no protected disclosure procedures in place were councils – this was almost two years after the laws were introduced.

Everyone is responsible for preventing public sector corruption, and by encouraging and supporting people to speak up about corruption, councils are taking an important step towards building a corruption-resistant organisation.

While councils have specific corruption profiles – often around uncontested service delivery functions, and heightened by community expectations – traditional fraud risks around procurement, tendering, contract and asset management are pervasive throughout the public sector.

IBAC will continue to expose and investigate corruption, and work with councils to help prevent corrupt conduct in the local government sector.”

More LG Reforms are coming…………..

Here are the latest updates regarding major reforms coming:

  1. Minister Hutchins’s Speech 
  2. The LG Reforms Overview

These reforms are opportunities for resolving many of ratepayers’ issues stemming from poor governance practice in Councils, and increase more traceable visibility on councils’ performance.

If you have any project propositions to contribute to the development of some of these reforms, let us know. We have already started two projects, and several are in the planning pipeline, including making use of ICT innovations to increase community engagement and governance oversight capacities.

(Source: http://delwp.vic.gov.au/news-and-announcements/ministerial-statement-on-local-government)