Ratepayers’ money wasted

Choice is yours: would you rather South Gippsland Shire Council spend $81,500 on municipal monitor Peter Stephenson ensuring councillors behave at council meetings and improve their governance, or for 30km of gravel road to be maintained? Grader photo, Facebook/South Gippsland Shire Council.

RATEPAYERS have paid $81,500 so far for a watchdog to keep an eye on South Gippsland Shire Council in the wake of a dysfunctional term marred by allegations of bullying, disrespect and poor governance by councillors.
That amount could have paid for more than 30 kilometres of gravel road to be maintained, based on the average cost of $2700 per kilometre for unsealed roads to be graded and drains attended to, in the shire.
Mayor Cr Don Hill has refused to explain to ratepayers whether he feels comfortable with council spending so much of ratepayers’ money on the monitor.
With the monitor’s term continuing until June this year, the final cost could rise to approximately $160,000 based on the cost so far. The monitor’s term expires on June 18 this year.
The State Government appointed municipal monitor Peter Stephenson on June 18, 2018 to watch council for 12 months in the wake of allegations of poor governance and dysfunctional operation, with poor relationships between councillors a major factor.
He is usually present two days a week – Wednesday and Thursday – and is taking a break over January while council is not meeting.
Mr Stephenson has since provided advice to council about governance practices and is filing regular reports with the new Victorian Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek.
Mr Stephenson’s terms of reference relate to council’s meeting procedures, decision making (including the use of urgent special meetings of council, and notices of motion and rescission), policies to manage conflicts of interest and confidential information, councillors’ code of conduct, internal resolution procedure and the CEO’s policies and practices for managing interactions between councillors and council staff.
Cr Hill would not address questions about the cost of the monitor asked by The Star, only responding with “No comment”. The questions were:
• Does the mayor feel comfortable with council spending $81,500 on the municipal monitor?
• Does the mayor believe this is the best use of ratepayers’ money?
• Does the mayor believe this money should go to the monitor or projects and infrastructure that would benefit the community?
• Does the mayor believe the appointment of the monitor could have been avoided?
• If so, how? If not, why not?
• Does the mayor believe he had any role to play in the appointment of the monitor?
• Why does the mayor believe the monitor was appointed?
Mr Somyurek said the monitor was appointed following a request by the Local Government Inspectorate.
“I expect the community will benefit from the monitor’s work to help council improve its decision making, management of conflicts of interest and confidential information,” the minister said.
The previous local government minister, Marlene Kairouz, appointed Mr Stephenson on the recommendation of the Local Government Inspectorate.
Local councils are responsible for the remuneration of monitors under the Local Government Act 1989.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=27283

Posted by on Jan 30 2019. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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