Monday, November 07, 2005

Melbourne City Council continues to avoid accountability and open and transparent governance

Team members, supporters, State Government Local Government Policy Committee, Members of Parliament, Councillors and Media (As addressed)Subject: Melbourne City Council continues to avoid accountability and open and transparent governance

Our campaign to hold the Melbourne City Council to account continues following the failure of the Council to demonstrate it's capability or willingness to be held accountable .

The Melbourne City Council and it's administration, true to form, are continuing to avoid accountability and open and transparent government.

As many of you are aware we campaigned successfully for the Council to publish information related to staff and Councillors Overseas and interstate travel.

The Council in its lack of wisdom having been caught out fixing the books (over $8,000 was missing and not disclosed in the Council's published Councillor Expense accounts).

The Local Government Act requires that the Council maintains "Travel Register" a public record of all interstate and overseas travel. This is a public document.

Review of this information which was previously available on the Council's internet site enabled us to identify the errors in the Council's accounts bringing into question the integrity of the Council published expense statements.

The Council's Travel Register is a public Document. Why is the Council going to extra-ordinary steps to avoid its publication on the Internet?

Having been caught out the Council administration have now withdrawn this information from the internet and the publics eye in an attempt to make it harder for the public to gain access. Clearly they had something to hide.
The Council administration under the legal advise of Alison Lyon (The same officer that` spent thousands of ratepayers money trying to avoid the publication and disclosure of the City Council Elections) continues to advocate that the Council should only do the minimum required whilst the Council continues to hide behind creative accounting techniques to avoid disclosure of what should be honest public information.

The Internet is a valuable source of information and the City Council should embrace this technology to ensure that information is readily available as part of its declining commitment to maintaining an open and transparent government.

Sadly the current elected Council has remained silent and have not brought the Council administration to account by insisting that this information and other public documents are accessible via the internet. Maybe this is because they are the ones that are more often then not held accountable by the publication of this information.

There are significant financial and logistical benefits to be made by embracing internet technology. The Council previously published this information so the systems are in place. The Council is required by legislation to ensure that this information is maintained and available for public inspection. However the administration are prepared to spend the thousands of dollars in additional cost required to ensure that this information is only made available on application and onsite inspection. This consumes a significant amount of Council resources far in excess to the cost of publishing and making the information available on the Council's internet site.

Given that the Council is not prepared to honour its previous commitment and demonstrate that it is capable of self governance it is now up to the Government to take control and to legislate access and publication of this information.

The current Local Government Act is silent when it comes to the internet. Clearly internet technology has an advantage in providing low cost publication and information ensuring that Victoria maintains an open and transparent Local Government sector. The Act MUST be reviewed to take into account this new technology and bring Local Government into the 21st Century. All documents, registers and financial accounts should be readily available for inspection and published on the Internet.

These documents are considered important enough to ensure that they are accessible for public review then they should also be readily available via the internet.

The City Council is incapable or unwilling to act in the public interest. State Government must act to require the Council to utilise this new technology as part of its Good Governance requirements

In 2006 we will be campaigning once again to hold the Melbourne City Council to account and as such advocating for legislative reform.

Further information can be obtained via return email.

Anthony van der Craats

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