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Budget fix “urgent”

Saturday, 28th April, 2012

By Erica Visser

Time is running out for City Council which has voted to investigate seeking outside help to fix its finances in time for the next budget.

The move follows ongoing concern from the State Division of Local Government about Council’s management of funds and its record keeping.

Councillors at Wednesday night’s monthly Council meeting voted to look into employing an external audit committee to help manage finances in the long term. 

The measure would replace Council’s current finance and audit committee which is comprised of six councillors and internal staff. 

Mayor Wincen Cuy said that the external committee would be a long term initiative and would not be used to resolve financial problems before the end of the year.

However, he said Council needed to look into hiring an outside consultant in the short term to help meet budget deadlines set by the Division.

“The external audit committee is probably a long term idea but the most immediate thing is looking at getting a financial consultant to help,” Mayor Cuy said.

“I would like to think Council would investigate this at its Operational Plan meeting next week.”

Mayor Cuy said that it was possible to “skip the process” of taking the issue to Council’s next general meeting, at the end of May, given the urgency of the issue.

The Division’s most recent letter, sent earlier this month, stated that it was not willing to grant Council an extension for sorting out its finances.

“The proposed timeframe for completion (August) is not acceptable. The action must be completed by 30 June 2012, prior to audit,” said the Division’s Chief Executive Ross Woodward in the letter.

“I should also note that I am not prepared to grant Council an extension for the lodgement of its financial statements for 2011/12. 

“These statements should be submitted to the Division by 7 November 2013.”

Deputy Mayor Bob Algate said that Council must take “drastic action and seek outside help” because it “doesn’t seem to be making any headway in its current shape.

“There is little doubt in my mind that some councillors don’t seem to care,” Clr Algate said.

“The most important part of being a councillor is to approve expenditures. The responsibility lies with the elected body, not staff.

“But some councillors just do not seem to be at all interested.”

Clr Algate expressed concern that if the matter was not handled within the next week, Council would not meet the strict deadline set by the division. 

“Council cannot afford to have a qualified audit next time,” he said.

“If we are not able to provide the appropriate documents to support figures...all hell’s going to break loose.

“Something positive has to happen and I’m not so sure it will.”

Council has meanwhile invited a representative from the Division to visit the city to discuss the concerns.

Council’s General Manager, Frank Zaknich, said that an answer should be received next week.

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