Thursday, April 06, 2006

So calls for action

Only after the Council is caught cheating

John So has called on the Council to take steps to address the corrupt practice of over-charging on parking fines but only after being caught out by the Watchdog, Victoria's State Ombudsman.

The City Council knew long ago that its practices were corrupt and that it had no authority to fine motorist but they kept mum and failed to report earlier on the issue in the hope of avoiding accountability. It was only when the State Ombudsman undertook a raid on the Council officers that the full extent of the scam came to light. The Council administration should have co-operated with the Ombudsman department but refused to do so.

Having been caught out John So now calls for action. Where was he when this matter was first brought to his attention and why has he waited until now to act?

Council to refund $50,000 of fines


MELBOURNE City Council incorrectly pocketed $50,000 in parking fines and did nothing to return the money to motorists, a damning report by the Victorian ombudsman has found.

If not for the ombudsman's investigations, the council would have happily kept $50,000 in fines that were incorrectly issued, or issued with administrative errors which made them invalid, the report said.
It also said parking officers were forced to meet daily ticket quotas, and faced warnings and possible dismissal if they failed.

Parking fines were the council's second largest revenue source, and generated an estimated $27.5 million in 2004-05, the report found.

That meant parking officers needed to issue at least 466,000 parking tickets during the course of a year to meet the council's revenue target, the report said.

Melbourne City Council parking officers working in teams were set a daily average of 30 tickets each, Ombudsman George Brouwer said.

"I understand that if a parking officer did not meet the 30 parking infringements per day average, or keep within five per cent of their group, that they were counselled, warned and may face dismissal," he said.

"I understand that council uses quotas as a performance management tool."

The council has since agreed to repay 433 invalid parking fines totalling $50,000.

The Docklands Authority, which controls Melbourne's riverside precinct where the problems occurred, also has agreed to refund 646 fines worth more than $32,000.

Mr Brouwer found that most parking tickets were issued for "bona fide" offences in the Docklands area, but administrative errors rendered the tickets invalid.

Some parking officers were not properly authorised to issue fines in the Docklands area, while some tickets were incorrectly registered with the courts.

Deputy ombudsman John Taylor said the report had focused on the Docklands area but it had serious implications for 79 other councils in Victoria.

"Melbourne City Council was not following the law in relation to issuing (parking) infringement notices," Mr Taylor said on ABC radio today.

He described the report as blueprint on how to correctly issue parking tickets.

Melbourne Lord Mayor John So said the council had co-operated fully with the ombudsman's investigation.

"I have asked the chief executive to ensure all possible steps are taken to fully implement any outstanding recommendations," Mr So said.

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