Thursday, February 09, 2006

Council's avoidance and censorship

Finance Committee minutes confirms Councillors' refusal to publish reports that are critical of the Council

Minutes of the City of Melbourne Finance and Corporate Performance (sic) committee meeting held last Tuesday (February 7, 2006) confirm that the city of Melbourne did not consider in detail the recommendation contain in the various items of correspondence

6. GENERAL BUSINESS (agenda item 6)

6.1 Response to Correspondence Received by Mr Anthony van der Craats

The Chair referred to the matter previously raised in relation to the correspondence of 4 February 2006 (which incorporated information contained in correspondence dated 24 December 2005) 3rd, 2nd and 1st February 2006 received from Mr Anthony van der Craats. The Chair, Cr Shanahan, moved the following motion: “That the Finance and Corporate Performance Committee note the correspondence and include in quarterly travel reports to Committee a register of in-bound travel funded by Council.” Cr Snedden seconded the motion.

The motion was put and carried unanimously.

Copies of correspondence was circulated to Councillors but the Council in a deliberate attempt of avoidance refused to publish the reports and make them available to the public. WHY?

Committee chairman Councillor Brian Shanahan has failed to provide an explanation. Missing in the documentation and deliberations of the Committee are recommendations for the City of Melbourne to publish expenses related to in-house catering and the cost associated with the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor's Council funded limousines. Clearly the Council does not want this information made public - what is it the are trying to hide that they go to extraorindary lengths to avoid?

Whilst the City Council has agreed to publish in-bound travel expenses funded by the Council the full costs of in-bound missions will not be disclosed with the cost of travel being a small part of the overall cost of in-bound missions.

Why did the Council agree to publish limited information on in-bound missions but refused to publish travel costs associated the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor's Limousines and Council's in-house catering bill?

The City of Melbourne continues to deny the public access to information in what is seen as an ongoing abuse of process.

The public have a right to know the full costs and details of council expenditure. The question that is outstanding is the City of Melbourne still intending to produce a report on the full cost of In-bound Missions and will that report be tabled in an open and public meeting?

Greens Councillor Fraser Brindley in December 2005 moved a motion that the in-bound mission report as requested by Cr Snedden be referred to a secret 'illegal' meeting of Council behind closed (Shame Fraser Shame). The holding of secret meetings is contrary to the provisions of the Local Government Act and the principle of open and transparent governance which require that all public documents and deliberations of Council be made in open public meetings.

Whilst it has been noted that Greens Councillor Fraser Brindley has expressed regret in moving the motion in december he never the less has failed to re-address this issue and continues, along with other Councillors, to support the suppression of reports and documents that expose the true cost of governance of the City of Melbourne. Is this the quaility of Governance we can expect form the Greens should they be elected to State Parliament? Given their current performance I do not think they will make it.

The report and recommendations that have been withheld by the City Council outlined a number of concerns related to errors and omissions in the Council's published data and included recommendations protect the integrity of the Council's financial registers against possible fraud and deception.

The Council Travel Register in its current form is an electronic whiteboard open to abuse and misuse with staff able to alter, remove or delete information without detection.

The report recommended that Council include a Record Id number (Which is normal professional practice) to assist in the proper audit of the register information and to help prevent misuse, abuse and possible fraud. Previous copies of the Travel Register have been modified to remove undisclosed expenses related to former Councillor Anthony Nicholson's St Petersburg 'mid summer' tour, with $8,000.00 still missing from the published Councillor expense statements.

The City Council continue to avoid accountability as opposed to accepting responsibility by talking action to prevent ongoing misuse and abuse of the Council administration who are engaged in a excerise of cover-up and denial. Until they address the issue in a professional and proper manner the problems identified will not disappear. Advodiance and denial is not the answer.

Tuesday's Finance and Corporate Performance (sic) committee meeting also failed to publish and consider items of correspondence in relation to item 5.7 "Council's Long Stay Car Park Levy" and its "Transport policy".

If the Melbourne City Council can not demonstrate its ability to self-govern and continues to avoided addressing this issue in a proper and responsible manner then the only other alternative is to refer the issue to the State office of the Auditor General and Ombudsman for review and further consideration.

No comments:

Post a Comment