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Money woes not over

Friday, 20th April, 2012

By Erica Visser

City Council’s senior managers will meet with the State Government next week in a step towards fixing its financial woes.

The decision was made at a meeting on Wednesday night in response to the recent doubt cast by the NSW Division of Local Government over Council’s ability to dig itself out of decade-long operating deficits.

In a recent letter, the Division also recommended that Council seek help to maintain financial records following a string of inaccuracies and “the relative inexperience of Council’s finance staff”.

Mayor Wincen Cuy said that Council recognised that it would have to make some changes. 

“The result was the general manager goes away and undertakes a full report of what is expected and also looks at where we need to look at reductions,” Mayor Cuy said.

“Our operation procedures need to be looked at as well as the Council budget. We need to seriously think about what services we deliver.”

Mayor Cuy said Council needed to form an audit committee made up of finance staff and external members in order to properly manage funds.

“What I think happens in a lot of other councils is audit committees are made up of people outside council,” he said.

“It’s been brought up already and it’s definitely something we need to look towards.”

Deputy Mayor Bob Algate agreed that Council needed to make some drastic changes and said that management had presented councillors with figures that “don’t add up.”

Clr Algate said that if the Division investigated Council “they would be horrified” by some of the figures.

“One of the problems I have as an individual councillor is that we have been given, in lots of areas, so many conflicting figures,” he said.

“Management has acknowledged that they have an internal problem in treasury but councillors should not be drawing to management’s attention glaring errors within documents.

“The (Division) only know what’s been provided to them at this stage; they know the bottom line and what they’ve been privy to but my concern is if they impose an investigation I think it will be very grim for Council because of inconsistencies and endless errors that exist.

“If Council make a decision on wrong figures, the councillors will ultimately be blamed but they ought not to be blamed.

“The papers that have been presented at recent Operational Plan workshops are little short of being atrocious. There are figures so incorrect many are laughable.”

Clr Algate said that he doubted the problems would be rectified by the end of financial year.

“I’d be very surprised if it happens before then. The important thing is to works towards a surplus budget and if the Council is prepared to make hard decisions it can get close to bringing the budget to a break even situation.

“Certainly by 2013 we need to make sure we meet the expectations (of the Division) and those held by any organisation that runs a business. You cannot run in deficit forever.”

Council’s General Manager, Frank Zaknich, said that a report was being prepared for next week’s monthly meeting. 

“It will include updated plans for tackling our financial situation as well as the requests from the Corporate Services Committee to seek further input from the Division in this matter,” Mr Zaknich said.

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