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Council refuses to provide key Budget information despite GIPA Act requirements

The Beagle Editor, Beagle readers may be interested in my latest correspondence with Council.

Council refuses to provide Budget information despite GIPA Act requirements

Dear ESC,

Thankyou for your letter of 15 June (below).

I’m afraid I fail to understand why council refuses to supply me with the budget information I requested.

Your reason for this refusal that “It is not a requirement of councils to provide financial information down to the detail you originally requested,” conflicts with council’s assertion on page 32 of its Annual Report:

“Access to information is ONLY restricted when there is an overriding public interest consideration against disclosure, as clearly defined within the GIPA Act."

Could you please provide me with the “overriding public interest considerations against disclosure,” of the budget information I requested.

I can only find those in favour of disclosure:

GIPA Act s12

(2) Disclosure of the information could reasonably be expected to:

a) enhance Government accountability .........

c) ensure effective oversight of the expenditure of public funds.

In regard to your response, to my request for more details on the following budget categories:

*Community and Cultural Development – I wanted to know what the $1.3m in the 17-18 budget was spent on.

You state that it was for the Basil Sellers Exhibition Centre.

But, according to the latest update on council’s website, all that has occurred is council’s selection of Cumnock Construction for the development, and the erection of a fence around the site. The contract is not listed on council’s contract register.

Has this $1.3m been spent? If so, what on?

*Customer Assistance and Records – I wanted a breakdown of the items and costs under this heading.

You made no reference to this category in your response.

Is this because the controversial Mystery Shopper Program with CSBA, is concealed under this heading?

Does it still cost ratepayers $48,000 pa?

Unlike last year, will Councillors be made aware they will be approving this wasteful expenditure in the revised draft 18-19 budget on 26 June?

Will its continuation be discussed with Councillors?

I also requested the items and costs on page 72, under Community Grants

*Local Heritage Places – $15,000 last year to $25,375 in ‘18 -‘19.

*Rates Subsidies – $19,000 last year to $25,000 in ‘18 – ‘19.

*Events Support Program – $50,000 for previous and next financial year

Your response, they “have budgets based on previous spends in each relative area.”

Okay, who/what received the ‘previous’ spends in each of the above categories and how much did each receive? Why the dramatic increase in the first 2 and to whom/what is it allocated?

Surely ratepayers have a right to know who or what their rate money is subsidising?

I would also like to know if there is any mention of the (donated) Basil Sellers art prize, as a council ‘expense’ in the revised draft 18-19 Budget, as it was in Council’s Financial Statements 2016-17 ($16,000).

As for your offer to express my views on the DP/OP at the next council meeting, 26 June, I will be otherwise engaged – hence my original desire to make a submission using the information I had requested on 6th May, but which was denied.

It is most disturbing that ESC finds it necessary to be so obstructive with disclosure of information that should be ‘open access information,’ freely available on its website or upon an informal request.

In view of GIPA Act requirements, I believe council should review its decision and provide me with the budget information I requested.

Yours Sincerely,

Patricia Gardiner

Deua River Valley

"Leonard, you realise that the more you drill the more holes and cracks you'll find" "Yes Stan, and that's how the light gets in.... "

#Opinion #Council

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