The Auditor General’s report on Financial Management and Governance in MidCoast Council has just been released. It is a damning document which shows that our Council ain’t doing too well!
General Manager, Adrian Panuccio explained that the findings of the Audit, do not come as a surprise to the Council.
Well, nor is it a surprise to many others including -Cr Peter Epov – who have been pointing out the problems for some time.
Council spent $266m in 2021-2022. Council says it will be another 10 years that General Funds will continue to perform in deficit.
So, does that mean Council will hoik up our rates even more? A scary thought looking at the massive rate rises elsewhere – one council by nearly 100%.
According to the General Manager, Mr Panuccio . . . .“The audit process has provided a learning opportunity and we actively participated in the process to obtain full value of the results.” He added the recommendations were consistent with the improvement path Council has been on since early in 2021.
Too slow! I hear you mutter. Whether Council did or didn’t know what a mess they’re in financially with significant problems (which would have been hard to miss, frankly) the fact remains they’re still trying to schmooze us that they’ve got matters in hand. Given their slow rate of action, ten years to get square seems a tad optimistic.
Comments from the Auditor General include –
MidCoast Council did not have formalised governance arrangements for key financial and budget decisions made by its executive team until February 2021
MidCoast Council has not met all legislative and policy requirements to effectively carry out long-term financial planning
MidCoast Council’s implementation of its financial management system following its amalgamation in 2016 did not ensure that all staff used the system effectively and efficiently
MidCoast Council has improved some financial risk management processes but does not routinely test the effectiveness of its controls.
MidCoast Council has improved its approach to delivering financial management reports.
The audit office completed fieldwork during November 2022 to February 2023. The audit period of review was from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2022.
So how have we been travelling in the last 12 months?
There are probably few residents in our Local Government Area who don’t have a whinge about, or blame, our Council for every minor upset and inconvenience that happens in their area. From disastrous roads, to slow handling of queries and applications, to unhelpful communication from many in Council to complaints about neighbours over the back fence . . . the big the small and the ugly, the blame falls at the door of our (very expensive) Yalawanyi Gunya.
No doubt behind the scenes there are a lot of hardworking Council staff up against it. But the turnover of staff seems high. As do some salaries, starting with the General Manager.
The Auditor’s General’s Report is a factual document, thoroughly researched and presented. Such reports are of enormous value as a window into how Council operates, what it’s promising, and what it’s achieving or not achieving.
But what is it actually improving and changing for the better, and in a reasonable timeframe, and at a reasonable cost? How bad does any council have to be before some real action is taken? One shudders to think.
Of equal importance is how our community absorbs this information. How many of us comb the complicated confusing council website? Some residents write letters and get rote replies or obfuscating waffle, and some occasionally get a helpful reply. How many of us can locate and find answers to questions, but give up trying to talk to anyone at council? How many of us sit over coffee and debate the pros and cons of what our council is doing. How many of us will read every word in the Auditor’s Report? How many of us will decide to take more notice, have some input, or try to get a word in at Council meetings (which is limited.) Or how many just prefer to let council get on with it, and then when the rates rising alarmingly, start to complain.
So, don’t Let Apathy Rule
Perhaps we need to take more of an interest in exactly how and what goes on in council to get some real action.
Tune in or watch council meetings. Ask questions. Report incidences of possible problems and follow up. Talk to neighbours. Join neighbourhood and action groups. (see story on our Knitting Nannas). Have neighbourhood get-togethers and discuss problems and how to tackle them.
It’s our money, our lives, our community and our Council. Let’s make it work for the benefit of our community.