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Greedy grab by councils, including Monash Council

An excellent editorial piece by the Herald Sun:

Source: Herald Sun, 18 March 2014

Herald Sun Editorial News

The heat is growing on Councils to watch their appetites for escalating rate increases beyond CPI each year.

More articles:

  1. Councils sting Victorians $2 billion in rate rises above rate of inflation over 10 years, by: John Masanauskas, Christopher Gillet from Herald Sun, March 18, 2014 5:31PM
  2. Councils are giving into relentless community demands too often by John Masanauskas from Herald Sun, March 18, 2014 12:00AM

Why your rates rise every year?

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Monash Mayor in Council lobby share $272,000 payout

 The Herald SuGovernancen (13 March 2014) reported that the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) Board members were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in allowances and expenses last year:

“………MAV Allowances & Expenses…. City of Monash mayor Cr Geoff Lake earned $9736 from the MAV to go with his annual mayoral allowance and superannuation payout of $93,000.

The ALP had preselected Cr Lake to run in last year’s federal election for the safe seat of Hotham, but he was dumped after the Herald Sun revealed that he had abused a woman in a wheelchair several years earlier…..”

Monash ratepayers pay tens of thousands as Council’s annual MAV membership fee. For manyInvestment Management 2 years, Geoff Lake has acted on behalf of MAV as a Trustee Director of Vision Super, which caused all Victorian Councils  large defined liability payouts last year.

To this day, many people perceived that the Trustee Directors of Vision Super have not exercised their governance duty appropriately as they have not asked for a portfolio risk management system to be put in place to prevent more future defined liability payments from happening again. The MAV solution does not include risk management either.

As such, there are questions why Geoff Lake and other Vision Super Trustees continue to allow the Defined Benefits Superannuation portfolio to invest in instruments with high risks , which had caused all Victorian Councils to pay for large investment liability payouts in 2013 and several times in the past.

The Monash community is now asking why Mayor Lake never declare his personal conflict of interest in MAV related decision making, such as the December 2013 decision to approve sustainable street lighting proposal. Xfile 3This proposal was facilitated by Ironbark, a partner in MAV’s bulk purchasing procurement arrangement and who also consults to other Councils and streetlight suppliers.

The Herald Sun (6 March 2014)  reported that “conflict of interest claims have been aired in widely circulated emails regarding MAV, Ironbark and the company’s relationship with certain suppliers and energy distributors”. However MAV denied these claims, also reinforced in its webpage. A famous quote from the X files TV series – the truth is out there….

The big question is should Monash Council stay clear of the MAV/Ironbark bulk purchasing deal, given the controversies and the underpinning high risks when these matters are not put to bed. However, Monash Council doesn’t appear to agree with a more conservative risk adverse approach, ie according to our Mayor. Anyway, the worse that can happen is that ratepayers can pay for the risk if it eventuates, no skin off our Council’s noses of course – after all it is only about $3mio.

MAV/Ironbark procurement controversies

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Exposing the Elusive Games of Councils in Community Engagement

What we experienced in Monash Council via the recent sell-off of Council’s aged care facilities (and later on in the coming budget planning cycle), is not unique to Monash.

Beechworth  ratepayers are facing a similar situation with their Indigo Shire Council, who is deciding to approve funding for a project for building the Council double headquarters in two sites. Beechworth ratepayers want to know the expenditure amount and the underlying budget details of expenditure breakdown. They started asking questions in December last year, and their Council is building a transparency barrier to elude or delay answers to the public questions asked:

Beechworth Council Transparency

The transparency barrier is artfully disguised as a procedural compliance to LG Act in deciding to fund the project (see below).

Beechworth Council Game Exposed

It is a Yes Minister approach to constraining community engagement to block access to information underpinning a Council’s decision making matter. Ratepayers can change this game by using:

  1. The new Local Government Performance Reporting Framework (LGPRF) to produce a Report Card that evaluates the governance performance of this decision making matter;
  2. The Good Governance Guide to evaluate which of its 7 governance principles have been breached, which would then lead to the identification of underlying Local Government Act violations. An example of this Governance Evaluation report is like the one developed by the Monash community.

25 Feb Council Meeting Report CardRatepayers/residents can present the Report Card and Governance Evaluation report to their Council for an explanation of poor governance and if and when needed, activate escalation to higher authorities to report the community’s evidence based dissatisfaction of their Council’s lacking governance performance. This capability empowers a local community to increasing pressure for change in Council to come clean with transparency of their decision making and seriously taking accountability for their behaviors, decisions and actions.

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Mayor’s political scoring goes into Council website

UnethicalWhen a Mayor goes personal to do political scoring on Monash Council website, that says a lot about the quality of leadership this city has.

The Tues Council Meeting discussion on item 7.2 was one that brought personal bickering and party politics’ abuses into Council debates, definitely breaching the code of conduct principles , which are:

1. acting with integrity;

2. exercising their responsibilities impartially in the interests of the local community;

3. not making improper use of their position to advantage or disadvantage any person;

4. avoiding conflicts between their public duties as Councillors and their personal interests and obligations;

5. acting honestly and avoid making oral or written statements and avoid actions that may mislead a person;

6. treating all persons with respect and will show due respect for the opinions, beliefs, rights and responsibilities of other Councillors, council officers and other people.

Rightly or wrongly, the Mayor is perceived by many in the community as unethical, abusing his position now to push forward his political incited and personally motivated motion amendments and commentaries into becoming a headline news in Council Monash website.

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Councillors’ Failed Report Card

MRI Letter to Monash Councillors

Dear Councillors

Your performance in Tues Council meeting went reasonably well, until you had to bring personal bickering and party politics’ abuses into Council affairs. By doing this, you also showed contempt to the code of conduct through your disrespectful and what we see as pre-orchestrated behaviours. This is not the first time for many of you, you have often repeated many similar incidents in past.

 Is it because you are bored of mandate debates and like some entertainment for all, making the Council meeting a circus show?

 While you achieved entertainment and political scoring, you failed in meeting the Council meeting experience expectations of your constituents. We will continue to progressively monitor your governance performance in future Council meetings and other public activities.

To see full details of report card, click here.

25 Feb Council Meeting Report Card

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Will Council suffer when its Councillors go for state election?

Local News 1

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Progress Update on Community Governance Developments in Monash

Community Governance Capacity Building.gifCommunity governance is making corporate governance in Councils work for their communities and allows citizens to be overseers of Councils’ corporate governance performance . Corporate governance, in both private and government sectors is also now becoming more about formalizing and making clear and consistent the decision making processes within organizations.

This MRI concept of community governance came about in Monash in 2012 because Monash citizens participating in Council affairs are no longer satisfied with existing models of engagement that are tokenistic and controlling, and they  hinder genuine participatory democracy in improving efficiency, rates affordability and best value benefits delivery to people. With the recent legislation of Local Government reforms, the Monash community governance initiative has realized its first success milestone.

More specifically, community governance is about community becoming advocate leaders and taking overseeing roles to ensure good governance principles are complied in every aspects in Council affairs, from behaviors, especially decision making, to action taking. Good governance compliance is expected from Council leaders, including Administrative Executives to every employee, suppliers and any other parties it deals with.

In Monash, the citizen’s community governance model is evolving fast to involve:

  • Building strong and well-functioning community networks of influencing the design, implementation and evaluation of compliance to good governance principles in any Council
  • Focused public oversee of a Council’s decision making concerning matters that affect the personal lives, inter-generation sustainability and rates affordability of every individual residing,  working or volunteering  a city
  • Creating and sustaining a learning community that is informed and empowered to expect and demand transparency, accountability and inclusiveness from Local Government and their service providers, including advocacy and professional development bodies such as the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV)
  • Identifying collaborative and innovative ways to help facilitate Local Government become more accountable to their citizens and end users by show high competency and measurable performance in complying to good governance principles, from single issues to whole of organization performance
  • Educating the community about good governance and how they can translate their civil rights in inclusive civic participation into playing effective community governance roles themselves.

Community governance is no longer the models of just how Monash Council can better engage with people but how the Monash community wants to engage with Council. It is an intertwined citizen participatory and participative democracy model that dares bring community participation to the highest level of being partners in decision making and corporate governance affairs.

 

References:       Participatory Governance, Lova, Murray & Shaffer, 2004

Participatory Governance, Edwards, 2008

From Citizen Participation to Participatory Governance in Australian Local Government, Aulich, 2009

Participatory Governance: From Theory To Practice, FIsher, 2012

Participatory Governance Exchange, 2014

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