Moira Shire Council voted to revoke the suspension of the audit committee at a tense special meeting on Monday night.By Fiona Blick
Cr Alex Monk moved the motion and Cr Ed Cox seconded with Cr Monk saying she was “very disappointed the motion to suspend the audit committee came before council” in the first place.
“The council must have an audit committee but the committee can only meet if there is a quorum,” Cr Monk said.
“The audit committee does not just focus on financials, it also covers governance and risk management.”
She said by suspending the audit committee council had delayed the progress in providing reports to the Victorian Auditor General’s Office (VAGO).
“This suspension has cast aspersions on the audit committee member’s integrity,” Cr Monk said.
Cr Cox spoke for the recommendation saying he was “a member of the audit committee and didn’t know the original motion was to be put to council”.
“I was terribly disappointed, it was one of the worst decisions we have made as councillors,” Cr Cox said.
“We are here to try to do the best for the community as a whole.
“The volunteers on the audit committee have had their integrity bought into question.”
Cr Wendy Buck called for the chair of the audit committee to address council on “why a quorum couldn’t be formed”.
“I don’t think we should throw the baby out with the bath water,” she said.
Cr Peter Mansfield also spoke in favour of the motion but said “the suspension puts the audit committee on notice that they are not fulfilling the requirements of the charter”.
“This committee should now be proactive in improving the governance of council; we really have no option but to rescind the motion,” Cr Mansfield said.
Cr Kevin Bourke, who moved the original motion in the September ordinary meeting to suspend the audit committee, said he is against rescinding the decision for one simple reason.
“We, as councillors, have to keep Moira Shire viable and we can only do this with adequate information,” Cr Bourke said.
“The audit committee should meet at least quarterly and we went from December until May without a meeting or a report and this was a crucial time.
“We wouldn’t be looking at this if things went along as they should have.”
Cr Marie Martin also spoke against the motion.
“There are very clear guidelines for the audit committee within our charter,” she said.
“We may as well not have a charter if it is going to be ignored.
“What disturbs me is the five month gap with no meetings.
“I understand we are talking about people’s reputations but councillors have reputations as well and if I don’t vote against this then I might as well not be here.”
The motion to rescind the suspension of the audit committee was passed seven votes to two with Cr Bourke and Martin voting against the motion.
This motion does not affect the September decision of council to appoint an independent auditor to carry out a probity audit on both the fiscal and operations aspects of the Moira Shire Council.
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