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:
The transparency barrier is artfully disguised as a procedural compliance to LG Act in deciding to fund the project (see below).
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:
- The new Local Government Performance Reporting Framework (LGPRF) to produce a Report Card that evaluates the governance performance of this decision making matter;
- 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.
Ratepayers/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.
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.
MRI Letter to Monash 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.
Community 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.
One of our new strategic partner – a new local press 3W represents the Voice of the Common Good. They have an online local newspaper – 3wnews.org for people and groups doing common good for all. They are also planning to organise hardcopy-newspapers in cafes, etc. If any groups wants their local news about doing common good for their community, contact them via their http://www.3wnews.org/contribute page, or contact MRI (click monash ratepaters at gmail ), we can assist in passing your story to them. They are MRI’s new alternative to mainstream and local press, to get news of our work to a wider community.
Another success story / achievement milestone to MRI’s network of influence development program!
“….. Last week, councils were further tasked to do better through proposed tough new performance markers due to be voted into law in a few months. Also, ratepayers and residents will now have unprecedented level of transparency and accountability passed in Parliament.
Monash Ratepayers welcomes these recent moves by the minister.
“The community is now more resolved to see the next generation of councillors,” the group said in a statement. “They will realise they will have to genuinely collaborate with the community.”
Powell agrees. “Victorians should know they can trust their elected local representatives. These new and stronger powers send a clear message to current and future councillors when representing their communities.”