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simply pathetic …

The Beagle Editor,

Your readers, who follow the often bewildering rulings of the Office of Local Government (OLG) in matters of concern raised by the community to them as a governing body, might find this media release of interest

simply pathetic …

Earlier this year, when Bega Valley Shire Council (BVSC) adopted its 2017-2018 Audited Financial Statements the elected council failed in its responsibility to ensure that they were prepared & presented in accordance with the NSW Local Government Act 1993 & Regulations, the Local Government Code of Accounting Practice and Financial Reporting & the Australian Accounting Standards.

In view of council’s behaviour in deliberately deceiving residents & ratepayers as to its financial performance & standing, the BVSRRA lodged a complaint with the Office of Local Government (OLG) requesting that the matter be investigated & that council be required to publish an amended financial statement.

The BVSRRA was disgusted by the OLG's initial refusal to act on its complaint, in particular when it sought to justify its decision on its assertion that the discrepancies were not significant, leaving the BVSRRA to conclude that the OLG’s decisions were based on expediency rather than principle.

The BVSRRA refused to accept the OLG’s behaviour & pushed back, which resulted in the OLG directing council to publish an amended Income Statement.

In recent months, the BVSRRA has again had occasion to complain to the OLG about the behaviour of council, in particular in placing of a draft Revised Delivery Program 2017-2021 & Operational Plan & Annual Budget for 2019-2020 on Public Exhibition, contrary to the requirements of the Local Government Act 1993, & subsequently presenting & adopting a significantly different Operational Plan & Budget for 2019-2020.

In its complaints dated June 24th, 2019 & July 19th, 2019, the BVSRRA requested the OLG to intervene with BVSC so as to ensure that council met its obligations to residents & ratepayers.

Last week the OLG responded to the BVSRRA's complaints & again attempted to avoid its responsibilities, gratuitously suggesting that there were other agencies that the BVSRRA could complain to about BVSC’s behaviour, including ICAC or the NSW Ombudsman or it could simply wait for residents & ratepayers to decide the fate of council at the next local government elections.

Once again the BVSRRA was disgusted by the apparent willingness of the OLG to abrogate its responsibilities in the proper supervision of local government affairs in NSW & has again pushed back on the OLG, insisting that it intervene in council’s management.

In its response to the OLG, the BVSRRA has highlighted the purpose statement appearing on the OLG's website:

“The Office of Local Government is responsible for local government across NSW.  The Office’s organisational purpose is to ‘Strengthen Local Government’ and its organisational outcome is ‘Fit for the future councils leading strong communities’.

The Office has a policy, legislative, investigative and program focus in matters ranging from Local Government finance, infrastructure, governance, performance, collaboration and community engagement. The Office strives to work collaboratively with the Local Government sector and is the key adviser to the NSW Government on Local Government matters.”

The BVSRRA believes that attempts by the OLG to avoid its responsibilities by suggesting that BVSC & other NSW councils are only able to be held accountable at the ballot box are simply pathetic, & can only encourage councils to believe that they are free to engage in any standard of behaviour that they may care to adopt, without fear of consequence.

The BVSRRA believes that if the OLG’s attitude reflects the views held by the NSW Government when it comes to ensuring best practice standards of public administration are upheld in NSW, then that government is not fit to hold office.

If the OLG’s attitude does not reflect the attitude of the NSW Government towards standards of public administration that it expects will be observed in NSW, then the BVSRRA believes that it needs to take urgent steps to initiate immediate major reform & restore public confidence in the NSW Local Government sector.

John Richardson


Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association

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