Friday, March 24, 2006

Corrupt Practices

Missing report: Council Costs behind closed doors

Missing: Report on the of costs of in Bound Missions. Costs associated with Council overseas invitations.

The Melbourne City Council passed a motion back in December requiring the disclosure of costs for Council funded inbound missions. Request for this information was moved by Cr Snedden and the report was due to be made available in March.

Green Cr Fraser Brindley in an attempt to avoid public disclosure and accountability, moved to refer the report to an illegal meeting of Council behind closed doors.

Cr Brindley Fraser replied to our concern about the need to ensure open and transparency disclosure of public expenses. In his reply Cr Fraser gave an undertaking that the report would be made public? Where is it? It was not tabled at the March Finance Committee meeting.

Was it presented and discussed at the Council's secret Information session meetings?

The Local Government act requires that meetings of Council be held in open session and documents made available for public scrutiny.

The City Council to date has failed to respond or reply to out requests for the disclosure of Council's expenditure including the cost of the Lord Mayors and Deputy Lord Mayors Limousines, the cost of In-house catering (including the free supply of free booze to Councillors and senior Staff) and the inclusion of a sequential ID number on the Councils Overseas and interstate travel register so as to facilitate the proper audit and probity of the register content limiting the opportunity for fraud, modification, omission and misuse.

Previous inspection of the Council's Travel register resulted in the identification of thousands of missing dollars from published expense statements, as the Council staff tried to avoid accountability and public disclosure of Staff and Councillor expenses. The City Council continues to be implicated in a conspiracy of silence and aviodance.

The failure to publish the report as requested by Cr Snedden is just another example of the extent that the Council administration is prepared to go to to avoid open and transparent governance leaving it open to misuse and abuse and possible corruption.

The report detailing the full cost of in-bound missions Must be published without delay.

Friday, March 10, 2006

bloody Oath

State Government defers cutting constitutional ties with the monarchy

Victoria continues to retain colonial links to the British Monarch with the State Government declining to act to remove the constitutional requirement for State Politicians to swear an oath to the British Royal Family. - Herald Sun March 10

Undoubtedly the Liberal Party will try and make some political point scoring on this issue but in reality it will not change any votes as the issue is only significant in that it requires change. Change that is long overdue. Any oath of allegiance should be first and foremost to serving and representing the interests of Victoria's constituents and not the Royal Family.

The State Government is right in deferring this change until after the November election but it
should not be out off for too long. It is also not a major issue of concern and certainly will not change voting intentions or voters assessment of the performance of the Bracks State Government which overall is positive.

Victoria as an independent state of Australia would be a welcomed change. We should also be considering changing the Victorian Flag to remove the Royal Crown and the requirement for Governor of Victoria to be appointed by Her Majesty as opposed to an appointment made with the approval of a joint sitting of State Parliament..

Snedden Smeared

Council avoids accountability and responsibility in providing free booze to Councillors

Melbourne City Council have indicated that Cr Snedden is under notice following recent events of unacceptable social behavior and drunkenness whilst performing duties as a Councillor Councillor - The Age March 10 - Snedden on Notice

No accountability and no responsibility.

WHOEVER The Council continues to deny and avoid accountability and responsibility for the provision of supplying Councillors and senior Staff Free booze.

We have written to to the Council on many occasions seeking publication of details of internal catering costs including the costs associated with the free supply of alcohol but the Council continue to go to extra-ordinary efforts to avoid disclosure of the full costs estimated to be over one million dollars a year.

There is no justification or need for the Council to provide free alcoholic drinks funded by ratepayers for Councillors and senior administration and it is about time Council put a stop to this activity.

- Extract from the Age newspaper March 10. -

MELBOURNE city councillor Fiona Snedden could be stripped of her role as a committee chair if she repeats this week's drunken behaviour at the Town Hall.

But she is unlikely to be ousted as a councillor, as local government legislation does not refer to alcohol or drug use.

Cr Snedden, daughter of former federal Liberal Party leader Sir Billy Snedden, is under pressure after Tuesday's business committee meeting, which she attempted to chair when drunk. She has since apologised and said her conduct was out of character.

Municipal Association of Victoria president Geoff Lake said yesterday that councillor conduct codes and the Local Government Act should not have to deal with alcohol use among councillors.

"It is a no-brainer. It is common sense that you should not be intoxicated when you are performing official duties," Cr Lake said. "This is the only time I can recall … where (a councillor's) public duties have been impeded because of intoxication."

He said Cr Snedden's apology and the community's response proved it was unacceptable behaviour.

The Age believes other Melbourne councillors will raise the issue with Cr Snedden when they meet before Tuesday's full council meeting. They will not push for her to resign at this stage. But one councillor told The Age yesterday that she would be removed as a committee chair if there was a repeat performance.

Other media reported yesterday that Cr Snedden was suffering from depression and taking medication. But she refused to discuss the issue further when contacted by The Age yesterday.

Collins Street precinct association president Don Parsons yesterday sent a letter of complaint to the council about Cr Snedden's behaviour. Privately, some councillors expressed disbelief over Cr Snedden's comments that the incident was a one-off.

Cr Snedden next month will face the Melbourne Magistrates Court for refusing a breath test. If found guilty, she could lose her driving licence for two years.

The Local Government Act says a councillor can only be disqualified for reasons including bankruptcy, being of unsound mind, having certain serious criminal convictions, or if they are otherwise incapable of becoming or continuing to be a councillor under the act.

In 15 months as a councillor, Cr Snedden has incurred $23,400 in expenses, more than any other councillor except the Lord Mayor ($28,000) and Deputy Lord Mayor ($42,400).

Her claims included $1200 for conferences and functions, $9180 for overseas travel and $6800 for child care. Cr Carl Jetter claimed $18,200, Cr Catherine Ng $7900, Cr Peter Clarke $5400, Cr David Wilson $3400 and Cr Fraser Brindley $2500.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Drunk on duty

Melbourne City Council Free alcohol under review

Guilty of chairing a public meeting whilst drunk.

Call to put an end to free piss ups and free booze for Councillors and Staff and adopt a "No drinking whilst on the job" policy.

Reports in the Age Newspaper and Herald Sun March 9, 2006 about Councilllor Snedden being too drink to chair a meeting comes as no surprise and confirm our concern and need for the City of Melbourne to review its free booze policy. This situation confronts all Councillors and senior staff who have access to the booze cabinet.

Melbourne City Councillors this month are more concerned about the fun and freebies in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games then they are with issues of governance and administration.

Councillor Snedd0n was not the first and sadly will not be the last as long as the Council continue to provide free booze top senior staff and Councillors.

Whilst Cr Fiona Snedden must accept responsibility for he own actions the City Council must also share some responsibility for the situation that Cr Snedden found herself in after last Tuesday's Council meeting. There are questions as to the Council's overall legal liability and duty of care.

The City of Melbourne continue to provide free on tap booze to councillors who often find themselves in the situation where they drink too much free booze. Te cost of this free booze fountain is all paid for by the ratepayer.

Hopefully we will not see a repeat of this sort of behaviour and the Councillors will not need to undergo a breathalyzer test before taking to the stage or handed the gavel.

The City Council must put an end to the free bar tab and restrict the supply of alcohol to staff and councillors.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Big Spenders

City Council spends up big on Games

Melbourne City Council spends over $4 Million opn Gasmes parties. Herald-Sun Newspaper March 8, 2006

Melbourne shouts a $4m party
Shaun Phillips

MELBOURNE City Council will spend $4 million on public parties and celebrations in its $31 million Commonwealth Games budget.

The big-ticket item is a $3 million contribution to the river parade that will form part of Wednesday's Opening Ceremony.
Some $315,000 will be spent on a street party to welcome the Queen's Baton Relay on the eve of the ceremony.

Estimates last August put the cost at $120,000.

The council hopes tens of thousands of people will congregate on the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth streets from 5.30pm on Tuesday.

Paul McDermott, Christine Anu, Mark Seymour and Rogue Traders will perform.

The council will spend $500,000 on the Moomba parade for Monday. An Indian festival on Saturday will cost $90,000.

The council will host a cocktail party reception for Australian athletes on Monday night.

The council revealed the cost of 12,000 potted plants to be placed around the city in 375 crates had risen to $200,000, up from $160,000.

About $19 million of the budget has gone to capital projects including Bourke St mall, Queensbridge square, and Sandridge and Princes bridges.

More than 10km of road and footpaths have been resurfaced for the marathon and cycling races.

Almost $5 million will be spent on operations, including employing 320 contractors to work around the clock clearing an estimated 500 tonnes of rubbish.

The council will spend $170,000 hosting guests from around the world at Games events.

Lord Mayor John So said he hoped two of 72 giant fish moored in the Yarra for the opening ceremony would find a permanent home near the Melbourne Aquarium.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Melbourne City Games Bank

City Council embraces creative accounting to fund Commonwealth Games deficit

Melbourne City Council has been asked to fun an extra 6Muillion Dollars to help bail out the State Government for ever increasing costs associated with the holding of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games.

The Age March 4, 2006

A deal between the Melbourne City Council and the State Government reported in the Age indicates that the State Government would provide ongoing funding for Moomba in return for the City of Melbourne raiding the Council's bank account an chipping in an extra 6 Million dollars. Although ten full details of the offer are unknown what is clear is that this proposal is creative accounting where the the State Government's cost games are reduced making the squares on the book look more acceptable. (If that is a all possible).

The costs to the Council should be the same on paper 6 Million (less the loss of investment interest) with the State Government paying the Council back in yearly subsidies of Moomba - The State gets reduced games coast and the City of Melbourne books show a decreased costs for Moomba.

The City of Melbourne regally embarks on such creative accounting exercises and this is one reason why the City of Melbourne is prepared to go to such lengths to avoid accountability and disclose of its costs.

By agreeing to help bail out the State Government the City Council hope to win favour and support from Spring Street. If one turns a bling eye to the other. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours as both entities conspire to mislead the public.

The article published in the Age is well worth reading as the costs published are just the tip of the ice-berg with much more costs hidden away under different budget items or attributed to current costs.

Any serious analysis and review can only raise questions and doubts as to the overall benefits

All in the name of the games.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Beyond the law

Corruption in the Melbourne City Council exposed

The level of abuse and corruption in the Melbourne City Council has been exposed with th4 Victorian Ombudsman staging twice raids on the City of Melbourne to seize documents. The Age

The refusal of the Melbourne City Council to assist the Ombudsman ion its inquiries demonstrates our ongoing concern about the administration of the Melbourne City Council which has been in decline over the least six years ever since Micheal Malouf took over its management.

Answers to questions need to provided as to why the City Council did not co-operate with the Ombudsman enquiry and why was the Council administration involved in a cover-up?

What if any was the role of Alison Lyons, Melbourne City Council's Legal-Governance Officer in the cover up?

The Melbourne City Council continue to avoid accountability by refusing to provide open and transparent governance. Many decisions are held behind closed doors with basic information associated with the costs of administration and governance withheld.

The revelations and comments published in the Age Newspaper give weight to the need for a independent review of the City's governance. Alison Lyon's has left the den, did she jump or was she pushed. Other heads should roll? What knowledge and was the involvement in the cover up can be attributed to John So?

Melbourne's ratepayers and the public must be provided with more information and full explanation.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Gary 'DINO' Singer dumped

Deputy In Name Only. John So demonstrates he is incapable of providing leadership

Melbourne City Council last night removed Gary Singer from his role as committee chairman and responsibility for the administration of the City Council. Herald Sun 1 March 2006

Melbourne City Council yesterday pushed though a proposed restructure of its Committee structure and representation model. The public proposals which were presented direct to Council effectively shut out the community from any comment or input. Normally any administrative proposals of this type are first considered by the Finance Administration committee where documents are published and the public invited to make submissions. The decision to consider this recommendation under general business at last nights Council committee denied community input.

John So's reshuffle failed to address the real issues of organization and the need to improve local representation .

The system adopted demonstrates Оoh So's inability to provide real leadership and organizational management. designed more to tie up Councillor time so as to limit their ability to seriously review the performance of the council administration. Under the proposal adopted by the City Council the Council administration will continue to avoid accountability and responsibility .

Each Councillor, apart from the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor, have been allocated a portfolio of responsibility in an expanded Committee structure.

Missing is real effective local representation and community involvement of outside expert participants. With every councillor sitting on every committee there is little wonder why the City of Melbourne can not find time to seriously consider and review proposals put forwarded by the administration.

Instead of increasing the number of committees the city of Melbourne should be reducing the number of committees each councillor sits on. Instead the Council should consider adopting a model where Council delegates responsibility to outside experts, local representatives and council nominees. It is these expert committees that should be engaged in the formation and review of policy with recommendations being referred to th4 elected Council for final review and adoption. The City Council concentrating on fiscal and administrative responsibility and ensuring that the adopted representative model is working to community expectations.

In the mean time residents and ratepayers are denied effective representation. Changes to the electoral system in 2001 saw direct local representation removed. The problem is no so much to do with the electoral system but more to do with the policies of the City Council that has failed to provide an alternative effective form of representation and review in the formation of Council policies. Instead of being participants in the formation of policy community organisations are left to having to react to councils proposals with much falling though the cracks in the floor boards.

John So's restructure does nothing to reinstate local representation and community participation.

Disclosing the cost of administration

Council's reluctance to publish public information is in need of review

The Herald Sun review highlighting the extravagant salary packages paid to Victoria's Municipal Chief Executives has highlighted yet again the need for more open and transparency in providing public access to public documentation in a cost effective and efficient manner.

The Herald Sun reported that the city of Whitehorse and Maribyrnong refused to make available information pertaining to the disclosure of Senior Management's salaries packages. under the provisions of the Local Government regulations details of salary pakages and remuneration over 100,000 per year must be recorded in a register which in turn must be made available for public inspection. inspection of the register is a right of all members of the public and there is no basis in which the information can be withheld.

With the advent of the internet there is no reason, technical or administrative why this information can not and should not be made available via the internet. Appropriate security and validation checks can be provided for.

Clearly the State Government needs to review its legislative requirements to ensure that all public documentation and information is readily available via the internet. there is no excuse for the petty games of avoidance by trying to restrict access to this information by making it difficult to access.

What do they have to hide and what gain is there from maintaining such an inefficient system.