Administrator asked to make decisions without details
Opinion by Merilyn Vale
Council staff want to revoke a whole pile of policies.
These policies, according to a report, are out of date or conflict with legislation or are simply no longer needed.
But hang on a minute.
What is actually in these policies? What exactly is the administrator, Rik Hart, being asked to revoke at the August council meeting.
We don’t know – because the policies are not published.
For Mr Hart to do his job properly, due diligence is required
Let him see the detail, so he can make up his own mind, as to whether these policies are outdated or conflict with legislation.
And we are supposed to be able to help him.
The public is supposed to get access to documents at the same time as the councillors, or in this case, our administrator, as required under the Local Government Act.
The documents are not attached to the agenda for the August 22 meeting which suggests the administrator has not been given these documents.
Or briefed on them.
If he had, the documents should be public.
Our councillors were criticised by the Public Inquiry findings handed down on March 17, 2022, for not being all over financial documents.
In particular, they didn’t notice when the investment report for October 2019 changed in format and no longer included a row within the table describing the value of unrestricted funds.
The report did not contain any additional comment to alert the reader to the fact that unrestricted cash was in the negative.
The councillors were never informed the unrestricted funds had been exhausted nor were they warned about the consequences.
The public inquiry final report, on page 42 states: The investment reports from October 2019 until the financial crisis, were designed to obfuscate rather than elucidate. The staff of CCC responsible for those reports bear a significant responsibility for the lack of knowledge on the part of the councillors for the unlawful use of restricted funds.”
Nevertheless, the public inquiry found the councillors were responsible in the end for their decisions and they were sacked.
Surely this is a similar situation, where the decision rests with the bloke who is the State Government’s replacement of councillors.
This decision is probably not nearly as important, since they are merely “policies” not budgets or financial statements.
But how do we know how unimportant these documents are?
One is about matters in the land and environment court.
The council is a respondent in the court regularly. In recent weeks, it had more than 30 upcoming appearances scheduled.
The reason for revoking this policy is stated as: “This policy is no longer required because it is covered by delegations issued to staff and the need to mediate.”
What does that mean? What decisions are being delegated to staff?
“The Land and Environment Court (LEC) publishes practice notes that are publicly available free of charge and detail the process for matters in the LEC,” the report states.
“These practice notes are subject to change from time to time as dictated by the LEC.”
Who, within our council, notes the changes?
The environmental management policy is also to be revoked.
The content is apparently “duplicated within Council’s Environmental Policy which will be reviewed in 2024”.
Ok, well, why not review both in 2024?
Staff should share the facts, not just state there are facts but not provide them.