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Council fails to tell the public more stuff

The Beagle Editor, MANDATORY DISCLOSURE – COUNCIL FAILS TO COMPLY, AGAIN!

Once again, an item of council expenditure, estimated to be close to $10 million, has been hidden from ratepayers.

Under the GIPA Act(Government Information Public Access), it is mandatory for councils to publicly disclose contracts with a value of $150,000 or more, without requiring a formal application for the information or the payment of fees.

These contracts must be entered into council’s Contract Register, which is publicly available on council’s website.

In November 2020 information was revealed to the public, by an unknown source, that council was spending millions of dollars on a new ‘corporate business system’(Technology One). There was much community speculation as to the exact cost.

As the cost was obviously well over the $150,00 it should have been recorded in council’s Contract Register.

But it wasn’t.

Due to community interest, Clr McGinlay, at the council meeting of 24th Nov ‘20, put forward a Question on Notice to find out the exact cost and details of the contract.

Staff revealed that:

* the contract commenced in Aug 2016

* $7.07 million had been spent as at 30 Sept 2020

* estimated completion date Dec 2021

* estimated final cost is $9.86 million.

As none of this information was recorded in the Contract Register as required by the GIPA Act, I contacted council asking why.

Council response 9 Dec 2020(2 weeks after council meeting):

“The Technology One Contract was signed on 30 June 2016 with an end date of 4 Sept 2018.”

However, according to the information provided by staff at the 24 Nov meeting, this was incorrect as the contract had not yet come to an end.

On 11 Dec I wrote to council again, explaining their obligations under the GIPA Act(s29):

* that the contract is not yet completed and therefore must be on the Register

* that any variations or changes to cost or provisions must also be recorded

Council response 4 Jan 2021:

“I was unaware that the contract completion date had been extended. Council will include the Technology One Contract in the Contract register, with any variations, as necessary.”

“The General Manager is responsible for ensuring that members of the public can access publicly available council information under the GIPA Act.”(Code of Conduct 8.1) .

It is also the GM’s responsibility to ensure that statutory requirements are complied with(Code 3.1).

So, are we to believe, that for at least 2 years, the GM was unaware this information had not been recorded in the Register and hence unavailable to the public?

Since my correspondence, the Contract has been uploaded to the Register.

Amounts disclosed are: software/implementation $2.86m, net total variations $125,025, support $186,417 pa indexed.

This adds up to, at most $4 million.

So where is staff’s estimate of the final cost - $9.86 million revealed at its meeting 24 Nov ‘20?

It would appear that mandatory requirements have still not been met, as the GIPA Act(s29e) requires the TOTAL estimated value of the contract to be recorded in the Register.

It must also be noted that this is not the first time council has failed to comply with the GIPA Act.

In July 2019, the Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) intervened as council had failed to:

* do an annual update of its Agency Information Guide(AIG) for the previous 10 years.

* record 2 contracts on its Contract Register(within 45 days of contract becoming effective)

1. NBRS: Design Consultant for BBRAALC – value of contract $3,320,972.13. Registered 10 months late

2 Otium: Concept plans and Business Case for BBRAALC – value of contract upward of $160,000 due to variations and additional work that were not recorded. Registered 2 and a half years late.

In its response to me dated 19 Nov 2019, the IPC stated:

“The Agency[ESC] has provided the IPC with details of the process it has in place relating to identifying and adding information about contracts to the contracts register. I have written to the Agency separately about its legislative obligations under the GIPA Act to ensure that the compliance requirements are met, including by having regard to the guidance that has been developed by the IPC which includes the Self-assessment checklist for agencies – Agency Contract Registers”

One must wonder what happened to Council’s “process it [had] in place relating to identifying and adding information about contracts to the contracts register.”

And perhaps council needs to dig out the information provided by the IPC, “about its legislative obligations under the GIPA Act.”

It must be remembered that the purpose of the GIPA Act is to “provide members of the public with an immediate right of access to important government information” thereby “fostering responsible and representative government that is open, accountable, fair and effective.”

“It does this by putting the onus on councils to push information into the public domain .... ensuring effective oversight of the expenditure of public funds.”

And if a council continually ignores its statutory obligations under the GIPA Act?????

Perhaps the Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) has the answer.

Patricia Gardiner

Deua River Valley






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