Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Push for Moira Shire audit grows

Petition demanding an independent probity audit at Moira Shire Council is presented after chief executive refers investigation to IBAC.

ROB HENSON AND LAURA HURLEY July 23, 2014 3:25am

The pressure for an independent audit into Moira Shire Council was sustained this week with a crowd of about 25 people demanding answers at a public meeting.

It comes as Moira Shire Council fell four points below the state average in this year’s Local Government Community Satisfaction Survey.

The petition of about 1100 signatures, which demands an independent look into council’s fiscal and operational matters, was tabled on Monday night and will be debated at August’s council meeting.

‘‘It now sits in abeyance, and at next meeting council will have it on its agenda and I’m sure it will be vigorously debated how to continue with this issue,’’ Moira chief executive Mark Henderson said.

In response to questions from the public, Mr Henderson said an investigation into a potential 42 breaches of the Local Government Act had been referred to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC).

‘‘We don’t control that process. I expect by next month to know whether they will taking up a review,’’ he said.

‘‘If they do their work — which is not necessarily an audit — it could be a range of works, but it’s likely to be a forensic audit.

‘‘If not, it’s before council to do it’s own forensic audit, where the council and ratepayers would be bearing the cost of that work.’’

Mr Henderson was also asked why he publicly declared an audit would cost about $200000, when council previously received a tender for $60000 for an audit earlier this year.

He said what the audit approved in February initially called for was ‘‘quite different’’ to what the current situation would require.

‘‘If you explore the full processes of $50million business, to scope that work and do sit properly, it’s probably in the $150000 range ... then follow-on work when the review was received.’’

Meanwhile, in the most recent Local Government Community Satisfaction Survey, Moira Shire Council received an Overall Performance Index Score of 57, down three points from 60 in 2013.

This score puts Moira in line with other large rural shires that were included in the survey across the state.

There were mixed results for Moira in core performance levels, with a significant decrease in satisfaction for council’s customer service rating and an increase in satisfaction for community consultation.

Perceptions of council’s customer service levels dropped five points from last year to an index score of 67, significantly below the statewide average of 72.

Another area where Moira saw a decrease in satisfaction was in the condition of unsealed roads, dropping below the 50 point mark.

Across the state, unsealed roads is the area with the largest gap between the residents’ rate of importance and the council’s perceived rate of performance.

Moira did score highly for the appearance of public areas, waste management and emergency and disaster management, which all scored 74 and above.

Cr Ed Cox said the survey was a ‘‘great tool’’ and council had ‘‘room for improvement’’.

‘‘From where I sit we have a lot of work to do to put faith in our community so they can have trust and high aspirations in their council,’’ he said.

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