STIRLING council is still refusing to provide more details on how ratepayer money is spent, but staff have promised they’ll stop reporting payments inaccurately after yet another purchase of new cars was recorded as “parts and repairs”.
Resident Roland Hadley from the Ewen Street Community Group has been on a mission to shed light on the council’s opaque accounts system, which reports monthly outgoings with extremely brief descriptions. Mr Hadley pointed to examples such as two recent listings in the $900,000 range spent on “construction materials and services”. Mr Hadley says the abridged descriptions are unsatisfactory and ratepayers have a right to know what their money is being spent on.
He argues: “The CEO has a legal requirement to ensure full details are provided.”
But the council has maintained the brief “narratives” meet the legal requirements and it’d be too much work to give more information on individual invoices.
At the August 3 council meeting Mr Hadley made another attempt at lifting the accounting veil, arguing that 95 per cent of the invoices are self explanatory so they needn’t provide full backstories for a gas or water bill, just the mystery items.
And he noted “if this section is understaffed, surely it is a matter for the CEO to resolve as quickly as possible?”
CEO Stuart Jardine said “we try to be prudent in the number of staff we have in the establishment… currently we’re not understaffed in my opinion”.
But Mr Hadley has secured a promise that misreporting of expenses will cease.
He noted a recent accounting report stated “$32,864 was spent on vehicle parts and repairs”.
When he inquired he found out they’d actually bought a new Mitsubishi Triton ute.
He said “on May 3, three payments were made of $66,000, $104,000, and $135,000 were paid to John Hughes which were also costed to ‘vehicle parts and repairs’.
“Therefore, can ratepayers assume, presume, or successfully predict that these amounts related to purchase of new vehicles, and not actually parts and repairs?
“This is now the third or fourth time this miscoding, deliberate or otherwise, has occurred and I’m sure the ratepayers would welcome a clear explanation,” he said, to a chorus of “yes” from the chamber.
The council’s corporate services director Ingrid Hawkins said: “That has been recategorised in the accounts payable system, so you’ll see that as ‘new vehicles’ moving forward… that’s a promise.”