Monday, November 21, 2005

Local Government decline in standards of governance

There has been a significant decline in the quality of Local Government and accountability in Victoria (The Age November 20) as rightly identified by the Victorian Local Governance Association.

Link to original story The Age Online

Local Government continues to demonstrate lack of responsibility, accountability or interest in self governance. The City of Melbourne Council for example no longer supports a committee responsible for the administration and corporate governance of the Council, having removed corporate governance from the terms of reference of its finance administration committee.

Having sent a number of submissions to the City Council in relation to governance issues and the need to publish the Council's "Travel Register" outlining the full extent of Councillors and staff overseas and interstate travel the council has failed to consider the issue.

The Travel Register is a public document required under the Victorian Local Government Act and should be readily accessible to the public and along with other public documents published on the Council's internet site.

The City of Melbourne previously published this information on its internet site but it has since been removed, in what is a shonky and blatant attempt by the Council administration of avoiding accountability and responsibility and the need to maintain open and transparent government.

The Council Staff who are significant beneficiaries of Council ratepayer funded lurks and perks of office have also remained within the "cone of silence". You scratch my back and I will turn and look away.

The internet is a valuable and cost effective tool in fighting corruption. Public access to information in respect to governments is essential to the principles of maintaining honest, open and transparent government.

The City of Melbourne in its ongoing refusal to publish and make available public documents brings local government into disrepute.

Instead of shunning this technology Local Government should embrace it as a revolution of public accountability with minimal costs. If efficient, cheap and effective.

That is unless they have something to hide. (last year errors amounting to a short fall of thousands of dollars in Councillors Travel expenses were discovered as a result of information published on the internet. Errors that the Council administration sought to cover up and avoid disclosure.

The City Council is yet to address this issue. One year has passed and the current Council still continues to avoid the question forgoing their public duties and responsibility.

The systems are in place, the technology available but the Council lacks the will and integrity to act.

The Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) must also share part of this responsibility for the decline in standards and community expectations.

The VLGA is not an independent professional organisation, it is beholden to its constituent membership units.

The VLGA must also review and demonstrate its ability to apply principles of good governance and social justice to its own administration before it can preach and criticise its membership.

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