Train all audit chairs: Cornish

RETIRED Bayswater councillor Chris Cornish has delivered a post-council report on the $8210 graduate diploma units he billed the city for.

After two terms Mr Cornish decided not to contest the October 19 election, but a month before leaving he was reimbursed for four units of a Graduate Diploma of Applied Corporate Governance he studied between 2016 and 2018.

Mr Cornish told the Voice the study “serves no personal benefit to me” and helped in his role as chair of the audit and risk committee.

“The [chair’s] position can either be wasted by having someone with little understanding and who acts simply as a rubber stamp for the administration, or someone who will enquire, investigate and initiate,” he said in the report.

Mr Cornish has urged his replacement to also undertake study.

Bayswater policy requires councillors to report back to the next council meeting after a training event on why they went and how it.

Since Mr Cornish was only reimbursed late, it got shunted to the October 29 meeting.

Benefit

Bayswater councillors get $15,000 during their four-year term for conferences or training that will “assist them in fulfilling their role or otherwise benefit the Bayswater district community”.

But getting tertiary qualifications though allowances has been controversial at other councils around the country.

In 2018 Gold Coast city council banned reimbursement for any tertiary studies that were eligible for HECS or HELP loans, after a councillor claimed part of his business degree as an expense.

In Victoria in 2015, Darebin council came under the scrutiny of the state government after mayor Steven Tsitas claimed $16,575 for his Masters in Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management.

A municipal monitor’s report tabled in parliament said training should relate to “their role as councillor” and Mr Tsitas’ qualification would have been more relevant to someone within the council’s admin. 

McGowan government changes brought in this year require all councillors to undertake five short training courses for a total of six days’ training either in person or online. 

Mr Cornish says he hopes it is “sufficiently detailed, rather than just being a pointless waste of everyone’s time”.

At the October 29 meeting mayor Dan Bull acknowledged Mr Cornish as being the driver behind halving the amount councillors could spend on conferences, training and travel (they used to get $15,000 every two years before he proposed it be spread across four years). 

Other hefty training bills have included former councillor Brent Fleeton’s $7325 Australian Institute of Company Director’s course in 2017, and Cr Catherine Ehrhardt’s $3542 certificate from the same organisation, which has two classes still to come. 

Cr Ehrhardt had booked that course before the election, and pledged to repay the money if she didn’t win another term (she was returned with 70.84 per cent of the vote).

by DAVID BELL

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