It seems the recent public awareness, concern and criticism of MidCoast Council’s failure to deliver Capital Works Projects on time and to budget, has taken its toll on the Administration.
There has been a litany of capital works projects that have been delayed or not completed, some going back as far as five years. With the consequence of substantial cost increases, due to spiralling inflation, interest rates, and labour costs. This has meant project re-designs and re-costings as there were insufficient funds to complete the projects. Additional funds have had to be sought, often from Reserves or Developer contributions draining vital funds that could have been applied to other community projects.
Council’s response to the public awareness and perhaps quite legitimate concern was commencing from the 26 July 2023 Council Meeting, was to censor details of nearly 100 capital works projects which were previously published openly in ‘Attachments’ to the Monthly Reports for the: Community Spaces Capital Works, Waste Services Capital Works and Natural Systems Departments of Council.
All these projects have now been branded and classified by Council’s Administration:
“As CONFIDENTIAL in accordance with Section 10A(2)(d)(ii) of the Local Government Act 1993, as the information that would, if disclosed, confer a commercial advantage on a person with whom the council is conducting (or proposes to conduct) business.”
This blanket application of the Confidentiality provisions of the Act makes a mockery of public accountability and transparency which leads to a further erosion of public trust.
It is highly improbable that all 100 projects could fall under the quoted section of the Local Government Act as conferring an commercial advantage particularly as many projects have been tendered and have already been in progress for some time.
What the brains trust at MidCoast Council needs to realise is that the absence of useful information to the public will only lead to rumours and conspiracy theories throughout the community.
The Double Whammy
The consequence of this brilliant initiative is not only is the public excluded from information on capital works projects that may be critical to their locality but our elected Councillors are also gagged from publicly discussing any of the details that are listed in those so called ‘confidential’ project spreadsheets.
Rather than covering up, perhaps there should be a complete review of why capital works have not been delivered within reasonable timeframes over the past five years. One of those reasons could be that back in 2018, Council’s structure was rather naively transformed from 5 divisions to 3?
Clearly the findings of the Performance Audit of MidCoast Council by the NSW Audit Office has had little impact on our Teflon Directors.