Sunday, November 27, 2005

Coming to a flight centre near you - Melbourne City Council Travel

Melbourne City Councillors are at it again - Travelling the world, staying at five star hotels all funded by the Melbourne ratepayer

Link to original story in the Herald-Sun

This explains why the City of Melbourne Councillors have been silent in not wanting to disclose the true figure and costs of Council interstate and overseas travel. They have been bought.

Seduced by the dark-side of local government administration. "You scratch my back and I will scratch yours". Shame on you all for not defending the right for the public to know and being compliant in a cover-up of avoidance.

You can run, you can fly but you will be held to account.

We have FoI the City of Melbourne and as soon as they respond we will publish what they wont. the Council's travel register showing the full cost of travel including staff travel. The Council failing to publish the Travel register on the internet and instead requiring copies of the data to be obtained only through FoI is an abuse of process. Something that may interest the Ombudsman, We will wait and see how quick they respond to our FoI request before lodging yet again another complaint to the State Ombudsman.

Last time what we discovered is that the City of Melbourne had embarked on a bit of creative accounting bringing into question the quality of their accounts and the Audit. That's right Deputy Lord Mayor Cr Garry Singer is the chairman of the Council's Audit Committee. The same Cr Garry Singer who earlier on was found to be guilty of professional financial mismanagement. (See earlier posts)

It turned out that over $8,000 was unaccounted for and some of the expenses for our Councillors were pickup and put on the staff, who accompanied our globe trotting Councillors, corporate tab account thus reducing the amount disclosed on the Councillor expense report. - Creative really, no wonder we pay them so much with talents like this.

Green's Councillor Frazer Brindley has proven he is not as Green as his predecessor David Risstrom. David Risstrom was the most travelled of the previous Council having talked the City Council into funding the costs associated with his executive responsibilities of a International environment group. To David's credit he flew economy and stayed in cheap accommodation limiting the burden on the poor ratepayer.

Not so for Cr Brindley. According to the Herald-Sun report Cr Brindley is seeking approval for $9,000 to cover the costs of a proposed seven day African safari trip to Cape Town to attend an ICLEI conference.

Cr Brindley has sent in an email saying that he will be flying economy and staying in cheap accommodation (Is that with or without aircon?)

Cr Brindley said "the council only approved trips for councillors after serious consideration of benefits for Melbourne" If this is the case then why has Geoff Lalor, City Director of Sustainability applied for the sum of $9,000.00 to be set aside for this trip? Could this be another case of staff over-inflating the budget cost of Councillor's overseas travel?

we call on the City Council to provide a breakdown of the costs (accommodation, airfare and extras) for all overseas and interstate travel so the public can ascertain if they are getting value for money

Cr Brindley is an executive member of ICLEI and has managed to obtain approval from the Council to fund the costs of his international travel to attend executive meeting.

ICLEI is a third party international environment group, which begs the answer to the question Why is the City of Melbourne expected to pick up the tab for the costs of a third party organisation's executive expenses? Surely ICLEI should foot the bill for its own governance and not rely on the Melbourne Ratepayers? Was Cr Brindley appointed to the executive of ICELI on merit or because he could obtain funding from the City of Melbourne?

We did not expect Melbourne to meet the executive costs of the MAV or VLGA?

Cr Brindley's flight of compassion and care for the environment will generate over 2.88 tons of Co2 emissions. Well exceeding the average emissions generated for an individual over a whole year.

If the City Council seriously considered these overseas bonus trips for Councillors then where are the reports and break down of the costs.

Councillors the public have a right to know. Publish your report and share the benefits to the city that you claim exist. I am sure those who are struggling to pay off the interest rates on their mortgage would love to know why the rates in the city are so high and what benefit they derive from Councillors' luxury holidays abroad.

It's also of interest to note that most of the trips are to China. Analysis of the previous Council trips abroad shows a total of spent on trips overseas of which were to China and Japan

Question: Who collects the frequent flyer points and does the Council pay the Fringe Benefits Tax? Is it included in the expense statements?

We are thinking of keeping a trip tally and as soon as we collate the data we will let you know.

Added to our shame file "hey you left the sun lotion at home" awards go to:

Cr John So
Cr Garry Singer
Cr Brindley
Cr Snedden
Cr Shanahan
Cr Jetter

That leaves three to go. How long until they dip their hand into the cookie jar tempted by the dark side of local administration and seek a bit of ratepayer R & R (Rorts and Recreation)

... Game on!

1 comment:

MelbCity said...

Editor's subscript.

We do not agree with the comments expressed in the Herald-Sun Newspaper attributed to Southbank Residents Group president Joe Bagnara

"councillors should stay home and devote themselves to fixing local problems" - Yes they should spend more time overseeing what the performance of the Council administration and ensuring that the Council is responsive, responsible and well managed and accountable. But I do not want them to stay at home they have work to do.

"It's our money they're spending, and I think they need to be conscious they're not spending their own money" - Agree totally 100%

"I don't think Los Angeles can teach us anything. I don't think Europe can teach us anything. - get real do you know how stupid that sounds.

We are not opposed to Councillors travelling abroad representing the city and broadening their understanding of the world and alternative solutions to problems that we share in common - No way - we see possible benefits.

What we do oppose is travelling for travel sake and the high cost of doing so. There must be solid justification for the expense. It should not be seen as a reward for good behaviour or a way for the Council administration to buy favour.

Above all the Council must not be secretive of it. Full disclosure of accounts and trip reports MUST be made public. If you can justify the trip then be prepared to put your arguments and perceived benefits to the test - Air your thoughts and dirty linen. Do not try and sweep it under the mat.

It is also important to show the costs and extent of Staff Travel.

After all ratepayers are footing the bill and paying the cost

Councillors - We want to know that you know what is going on and why.

We want to know why Rob Adams takes a holiday to Europe (Italy) every year and what the benefit of this travel is.

Any rate funded travel MUST be beneficial to the City of Melbourne and directly related to a persons the role as Councillor or member of staff.

We do not want to see Council footing the bill for some third parties organisations executive expenses as was the case with David Risstrom in the previous Council.

We do not want to see Councillors and Staff staying in five star top of the town hotels and easting at the best restaurants at a cost of $800.00 a day as was the case with Tony Nicholson and Kate Redwood.

And we want to see Honest Open and Transparent reporting not creative accounting and missing accounts.

If the travel is warranted and you are prepared to justify and report on your trip then it is appropriate that travel be authorised. If not don't issue the ticket.

Councillors and Staff - Do not stick you hand in the lolly jar and take all you can get because you feel under compensated for the work and time you spend as a Councillor or member of staff. If you want more money and reward then there are many different ways of approaching it then through the back door.

The City of Melbourne is already over-resourced and over funded. There are many Councils out there that are far worst of then you. They would give their right arm to have the resources and funding the City of Melbourne spends on over-seas junkets. Many just want to pay for the capital expenses of roads and community facilities and less on administration folly. The amount of money the Council administration wastes is extra-ordinary and MUST be held accountable. It is the Councillors Job to do that - You are the in-house watch dog. Bark before you eat.

Post a Comment