Dear Beagle Editor, In light of your own Council's Annual report having just been delivered and of the questions that have been raised in these pages of ongoing financial matters and Council performance your readers might be interested in our latest media release it’s time …
It’s often said that those who do not learn from past mistakes will inevitably repeat them.
So it is that the Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) is deeply concerned about the apparent disinterest on the part of BVSC senior management & the elected council to learn from their past mistakes, particularly when it comes to the financial management of the shire.
On November 22nd, 2017, BVSC adopted its 2016-2017 Audited Financial Statements on the back of a relatively brief report tabled by the Director Strategy & Business Services. While that report offered a high level commentary of council’s financial performance, as well as one possible view on some of the financial challenges that may confront council moving forward, the elephant in the room was the fact that it offered no insights into BVSC’s blown out performance against its Budget over the previous year.
The BVSRRA believes that it is unreasonable to expect the elected council to be able perform the kind of management accounting analysis required to inform better strategic management decisions moving forward. For that reason alone, the BVSRRA believes that it is incumbent on council’s senior management to undertake such analysis & to highlight relevant information to the elected council.
While the BVSRRA notes that the director has used his report to highlight what appears to be a significant financial risk confronting BVSC in the near term, it also notes that he offered absolutely no insights on council’s immediate past management performance that might inform appropriate decisions in responding to that perceived risk.
As previously stated, the BVSRRA believes that it is entirely appropriate for BVSC”s senior management to explain how particular performance outcomes arose, in particular where they are significantly outside budget, & what action management has taken to proactively respond to such challenges. Examples include, but are not limited to, the significant variances in the Consolidated Budgeted Income figures across the year & a host of expense items previously highlighted as significantly over budget … see details here.
Meanwhile, the suggested risk to council’s finances highlighted by the director prompted councillors to immediately conclude that the only alternative open to it was for BVSC to identify additional sources of revenue, whether through successfully securing recurring additional state or federal funding or pursuing yet further rate increases.
While the BVSRRA does not dispute the fact that local government is genuinely underfunded at both a state & federal level, it also believes that it is incumbent on councils to ensure that they are operating at an optimal level of financial performance, which is another strong reason to analyse & identify key areas of expenditure which can be targeted for performance improvement, as an obvious first step in rectifying the situation.
And again, while the BVSRRA does not necessarily expect the elected council to formulate the detail of such activities, it does think it is entirely reasonable for it to articulate to BVSC’s general manager that it is clearly one of her major responsibilities to do so & if it is beyond her capability, then they need to find someone who can.
Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association