Archive for category Accountability

Monash Ratepayers Press Release 12 June 2018:

12 Jun 2018

What do you know about the integrity of Monash Council?

Press Release.jpgMayor Klisaris said that the council is disappointed with the Essential Service Commission (ESC) counter offer of 2.57% average rate rise (instead of the 3.53% council has sought).

The Monash community is even more disappointed with the Mayor’s response that refutes the ESC’s assessment outcomes and generous offer. It is because Monash Council has the financial capacity to absorb the increase in recycling waste costs and still remain in healthy surplus positions.

Yes, the council has not only lied to the ESC, but also its own community.  Mayor Klisaris claimed that the council would deteriorate its financial position, notably reduced liquidity, if it doesn’t increase average rate to 3.57% rate next year.

BUT the mayor also conveniently forget to mention the ESC Decision and Deloitte reports, which reveal misleading and missing information provided by Monash Council in its higher cap rate application, that

  • The council’s 2018/19 financial forecasts projected healthy financial positions for the next 4 years, including having more than ample cash on hand capacity to absorb the annual $1.5 million shortfall in recycling costs.
  • Should the ESC reject the proposed 3.57% rate, Mayor Klisaris said that the council would impend to reduce
    • discretionary community projects;
    • assets renewal, however without disclosing a long term assets management plan and therefore has no evidence to support this second threat.

What makes Mayor Klisaris say all the misleading information and unfounded threats in his press release response to the ESC decision?

There are two types of people who become councillors. There are those who genuinely aim and achieve outcomes in the real interests of the Monash community and there are the “otherwise” people.  The ESC Decision and Deloitte reports concluded that the council’s higher cap rate application is likely to over-charge rate-payers in the longer term. When people read these 2 reports, most people would realise that this council had reactively and hastily made a biased decision to lock in a high cost recycling waste contract with Visy and without due process and public engagement. Council also failed to disclose that it has received funds from the State Government to address this problem, which is faced by all councils in Victoria. Council’s decision making has broken the transparency, accountability and citizen partition principles of good governance, also embedded in the Local Government Act. The rule of law does not appear to be relevant in Monash Council’s leadership.

Back to the opening question, what do you know about the integrity of Monash Council? Yes, our council simply wants to increase rates, to avail more cash on hand, to spend more on discretionary projects. After all, federal and state elections are looming, and most people know some of our councillors are running for these elections.  The good news for these councillors is that they can get the Monash ratepayers to foot their election campaigns via their discretionary programs.

One more thing – last year Mayor Lake tried to engage with the community to persuade ratepayers accept the introduction of a new waste charge, which is outside the constraints of the Local Government Minister’s rate capping policy. Ex-Mayor Lake failed. Monash is one of 7 remaining councils whose waste management costs are constrained by rate capping. By transferring waste management costs that are regulated by the Minister’s cap, to a new charge rate, Monash Council can increase its capacity to charge ratepayers and raise more discretionary money in the future.

Now Mayor Klisaris is campaigning to transform ex-Mayor Lake’s failure into his team Monash success, that he /council has no choice now, but to introduce a new waste charge and censure ESC for forcing the council to go against the will of the Monash community. A wicked problem strategy for manipulating decision making and public opinion – how would you feel about that?

 

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People’s Park Option for redeveloping Glen Waverley Central Car Park

The redevelopment saga of Glen Waverley’s central car park has attracted another community option for best value consideration by Monash Council. This new community option, called People’s Park, was developed as a result of consulting local residents, traders, local school parents and other Monash ratepayers and residents and conducting due diligent business case research. The proposal is a substantiated and viable alternative for redeveloping the central car park, in addition to Cr Lake’s option.

This People’s Park option proposes partnership with Apple to build an underground technology retail and multimedia library center with two additional levels of underground car parks.

GWCCP People's Park

It recommends more and viable funding choices than Cr Lake’s option, which only pursues to sell the car park to fund a new library and a small public space, and allow high density developments that will threaten the feng shui of Glen Waverley and increase local population without providing  local and green open space in close proximity. The sale of the central car park will also mean the loss of GW’s most prized land that can potentially provide the local community and shoppers scarce green open space amenities and services.

GWCCP - Geoff's Option

March’s meeting documentation has revealed continuing preference for Cr Lake’s option to progress into Request for Tender.  Quality due diligent information to substantiate Cr Lake’s option against the John Monash Multicultural Square (JMMS) proposal (put in by another community group) was lacking, as there was the absence of evidence based business case information and a best value evaluation framework, resulting in the GW subcommittee (lead by Cr Lake) and council staff making subjective recommendations to reject the JMMS proposition. In the three public community consultation sessions (attended by more than 150 people) that Council has organized to discuss the fate of the central car park, MRI representatives who attended all 4 meetings, including the JMMS one, had witnessed over 95% of participants did not want the new library and high rise developments and prefer the central car park remain an open space. This strong non support for Cr lake’s library was never documented clearly in council’s public records. However, the March meeting documentation continues to misrepresent the strong Monash community’s non support for Cr Lake’s option during the community consultations and instead presented information that says otherwise.

Waverley Leader 5 April 2016 ArticleLike the selling of Monash and Elizabeth Gardens aged care facilities in 2013 and the deliberate and the long standing deficit financial management of the Euvena carpark, Cr Lake is once again leading and strengthening group-think decision making towards selling the central car park to fund and build a state of the art new library in the Glen Waverley central car park, a personal obsession that he willed on his constituents since the 2012 election, despite the community’s strong non support for his obsession.

Party politics stricken Councillors representing their own interests first is the growing new black in Monash, a proven fact also recently supported by the Waverley Leader, reporting the lateness and poor governance of council meeting in March and their growing failure to represent the community’s views.

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Are ratepayers going to pay for 2 mayors in Monash?

Paying for 2 Mayors in Council

Mayor GLWe just checked the ex Mayor’s personal blogging website and twitter  and he still claims to be the Mayor when the position has been terminated. The question is “are ratepayers paying for two Mayors in Monash Council?” Maybe two heads are better than one?

Not only our Councillors don’t commit to good governance practice in matters of using official Council information on personal website + social media and now this ludicrous claim of having two Mayors in Monash ! Great Mickey Mouse performance Mayors of Monash!

GL Still Mayor 2.jpg

 Update 14 Jan 2015: he updated his twitter to say he is just an ordinary Councillor (poor thing), but not his private blog. Lake no longer Mayor

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No compassion for funeral mourners, Mayor says money comes first …

No respect for the deadWhen people complain how disengaged Monash Councillors are, the truth really shucks.

Mourners attending a funeral who could not find a part for  longer than 30 minutes in surrounding streets, parked in the empty town hall, which was not in use. They were fined. The Monash Mayor says they deserve the fines. He is not only showing no compassion for people, his conduct also reflects a mindset that is above the rule of law and has a dark  twisted understanding of what operating efficiency means and when the legal expense could have costed more than what was reaped in fines. Read the Waverley Leader June 13 Article:

Funeral mourner fined for parking near church has Monash Council case thrown out of court

Mt Waverley woman Maria Irminger at the carpark where she was issued with the fine, which

Mt Waverley woman Maria Irminger at the carpark where she was issued with the fine, which was overturned. Picture: Lawrence Pinder

A WOMAN who was fined for parking on council property during a funeral has had her infringement thrown out in court.

Monash Council already has a reputation for Melbourne’s most zealous parking enforcement officers, with each issuing an average of 16 tickets a day.

As reported by the Waverley Leader, Mt Waverley woman Maria Irminger was “incensed” by what she saw as the council’s heavy-handedness in issuing a $72 fine for parking at Clayton Town Hall during the funeral last year. She went to court on Wednesday

Ms Irminger told Leader she was one of 15 funeral-goers who was hit with a $72 fine in the carpark at Clayton Town Hall. She said the St Peter’s Catholic Church carpark was overflowing but the town hall carpark was empty, and a woman who answered the door confirmed the hall was not in use.

Parish priest Father John Quinn told Leader there appeared to be a “complete lack of compassion” from the council.

Ms Irminger waited at the Moorabbin Magistrates Court on Wednesday for nearly four hours only for the case to be thrown out by the magistrate.

Ms Irminger said the council had wasted ratepayers’ money on taking the case to court.

“I hope council sees the stupidity of their behaviour,” Mrs Irminger said.

Ms Irminger said the council should allow people to park on council property during funerals.

But Monash Mayor Geoff Lake denied the magistrate’s decision would set precedent for other drivers.

“The restrictions are in place for a reason, to allow everyone a fair go at parking near where they need to go,” Cr Lake said.

Monash Council has nine parking officers and they issued 51,802 infringement notices in 2012-13 — at an average of 5756 per officer, earning the council a whopping $4.4 million in parking revenue.

Monash Mayor Geoff Lake told the Herald Sun in March: “We make no apologies for running an ­efficient operation. This is partly the reason why our rates are lower than any other council in Victoria.

“It is very simple in Monash — if you disregard parking time limits or no-standing signs, you will most likely get a fine. Our parking officers are doing a great job.……………………………”

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Budgets don’t lie, but people do – Part 1

The Mayor’s budget message says “By working smarter across all areas of Council activity, we have achieved $2.8 million of annual savings which we will now use to reinvest in Monash’s physical infrastructure. I am very pleased that this extra spending has been achieved through driving internal efficiencies rather by simply hiking rates …… as a result of these comprehensive service review, I am confident that there is no other council in Victoria which is more efficiently run than this one”.

We conduct an analysis of Council’s budgets over the last 3 years:

Budgets dont lie

Since 2012, Councillors’ collective decision influence on budget planning reveals that expenditure in community development services iSpend spends incrementally reducing over the last 3 years, to allow for increases to:

  • More infrastructure capital and city development spending;
  • More overheads (CEO and corporate services) spending

This longitudinal trend reveals that Council is gearing up its cost shifting to incrementally allow for more future infrastructure and city planning spending, made more possible by the sale proceeds of its 2 aged care assets.

The charts show that over the last 3 years, Councillors’ collective influence on budget planning is fostering cost shifting. Cost shifting has objectives and is about cooking the books in budget gaming, and it does NOT represent operating efficiency. Budgets don’t lie, but people do.

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2014/15 Draft Budget Review Findings

After careful reRates Reliefview of Monash Council’s  2014/15 draft Budget, we concluded that there is no reason why Council cannot cap rate increases to CPI level, or better still have no rate rise for next year.  Rates are property taxes and they forever go up above CPI.

Struggling PensionersIt is the social responsibility that Councillors help give some relief to struggling pensioners and families in Struggling FamiliesMonash who are trying hopelessly hard to cope with escalating high cost of living and tax increases.

This budget allows Councillors to have it both ways – they can  spend on the nice to have priorities (such as recreation and sporting areas) that give them brownie points public profiles, and they can also give financial relief to all ratepayers. They can do all these while STILL ensuring Council’s financial position is very sound!

The supporting rationale for this conclusion is based on the following key review findings:

  • Budget & Rates IncreaseIt is now costing ratepayers 11% more to cover Council’s operating expenses and 28.1% more in capital upgrade and new investment to deliver the current Council Plan by 2015/16 .
  • Unrestricted Surplus CashBecause of the aged care sale proceeds, Monash Council has unprecedented and excessive high financial capacity to pay its bills (which includes including future superannuation liability and debt payouts) and still have an unrestricted surplus cash reserves that will be worth ~$28m next year and close to $45m by 2017/18.

The supporting details are found in (a) MRI 2014-15 Budget Review V2  and (b) Council’s responses to MRI Qs.

ItBudget illiterate Councillors is important that Councillors can read and understand budget planning, otherwise they can  easily miscalculate their budget decision and prevent giving financial relief to their struggling community when they can readily do so.

Future State, Council & Federal Election Benefit ReasonsMRI has concerns about what Councillors will do with the excessively high unrestricted surplus cash in future. Because Monash Council Rumourshas many aspiring upcoming politician rookies, there may be risks that personal and groupthink influences can lead future decision making directions to invest in new projects or capital spends that would benefit people’s political goals and hence election achievement profiling in near coming and later election periods. Rumours are already out in the community about this risky perception, especially in the Federal Election in a few years’ time.

We must change Status Quo Budget Decision Direction

What has changed in cost mix?

Core services are Rubbish, Roads & City Planning. Non core services are classified under Community Development & Services, which are add-ons, often nice to have discretionary on-going spends arising from one-off projects funded by grants; projects supporting Councillors’ special advocacy wishlist items, their perceived community special needs, hidden political agendas, etc.

Next budget’s show an increase of core services’ spends and a reduction in community development services. We anticipate there will be greater investment in infrastructure and accompanying community service growth after next year. There is excessive unrestricted money to burn for this direction of spend and where this money will be used is not communicated to the community. The BIG Question is who sets & controls the investment direction for the community, as this Council advocates a culture that does things TO and FOR its community, not WITH its community.

The cost of overheads continues to rise and exceed total services’ costs – a concern and signals opportunities for improving efficiency. However, the Local Government sector is always encourage to increase rates every year for over ten years and there is no strong support for committing to a zero based budgeting methodology. The resolve and sustainability of truly committing to a “back to basics” budgeting is more theoretical propaganda than achievement commitment in  real practice. Sounds good in in public budget propaganda but not quite practiced with full vigor and honesty, as revealed in the budget analysis findings.

Cost Mix Changes

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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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Victory for Monash Ratepayers’ revolutionary community governance effort

MRI Feb 10 2014 Press Release

MRI Feb 10 2014 Press Release

Over the last 12++ months, Monash Ratepayers Inc (MRI), collaborating with several ratepayer groups in the southern east region, had built and reported to the Local Government authorities and the Victorian Auditor General Office, many case studies of transparency, conduct and other poor governance issues in their Councils. This conciliation of concerned ratepayers group was also involved in contributing to the development of future Councils’ Key Performance Indicators (KPI) from ratepayers’ perspectives. The unprecedented community governance feedback has certainly influenced the development of the new Local Government reforms that were passed in State Parliament last week.

Since starting 2012, MRI’s priority 1 is to improve good governance conduct and practices in Monash Council. After eighteen most challenging and often tiring months into this revolutionary “community governance” quest, the hard work is now starting to pay off.

MRI commemorates Minister Jeanette Powell for her resolve to legislate these change making/breaking reforms that are so much needed in many Councils, especially Monash Council.

The community is now ever more resolved to see the next generation of Councillors reinforce the realisation of these reforms sooner than later in Monash. It will be an interesting local government election in 2015/16, especially for presumptuous Councillors who have spent more than 1 term in office. Those running in this year’s state election will also soon realise their past deeds may also haunt them. They will soon realise very quickly that they will have to change their public attitudes, uplift their compliance performance and genuinely collaborate with (not just inform, consult and involve) the Monash community , and bending the laws administration support will no longer be tolerated by the community.

Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell’s new legislated  reforms to improve leadership conduct, decision making transparency and accountability, responsible performance and good governance compliance will give every ratepayers the authority to expect and see with clear evidence unprecedented levels of transparency and ­accountability in their Councils. For more details about the reform – click the Feb 10, 2014 Herald Sun’s article to read more.

It is time for MRI to upscale  its current capability in community governance to the next capability maturity level. Hence, MRI and other ratepayers groups will continue to lead and expand their already growing strategic network of influence and facilitate the implementation of these reforms in their cities. A major community driven program for consideration will be the development of Internet apps to provide community centered and social media enabled tools that ratepayers and residents can use. These tools will be acquired or developed by ratepayers groups to provide new value add to the “My School” website, including contributing to the building of its open system, cloud service oriented infrastructure platform. The days of cronyism and groupthink influenced, i-centred and lacking governance leadership in Councils are certainly numbered!

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MRI says NO to defiant Councillors challenging DR reform guidelines

The Herald Sun Leader reported today that Monash Councillors “vowed to take Ms Powell on if she decided to block the rate being applied at Tuesday’s council meeting.

At the meeting, Cr Drieberg said she was proud the council was taking a stand, but Oakleigh ward Cr Theo Zographos said he thought the council was making a “huge mistake” continuing to apply the rate.

Monash is believed to be the only council that has tried to continue with the rate for the next financial year…..click here to read more“.

NO

The State’s DR guidelines aim to reduce complexity and the inconsistent applications of differential rates across all Victorian Councils, which is the right thing to do.

In MRI’s Community Governance Report (3- April), they mentioned that they will NOT support some Councillors’ proposal to challenge the Minister over the Differential Rates (DR) reform guidelines that says DR applications will exclude Electronic Game Machines (EGM).  MRI sent an email to all Councillors to reconsider their stand on this foolish decision. One Councillor sent an abrupt and rude NO reply.

MRI re-emphasized Monash Ratepayers’ stand on this matter in response to the press article:

The Monash Ratepayers Inc (MRI) does not and will not support rebellious Councillors challenging the Minister regarding the exclusion of pokies machines differential rates (DR)  in the reforming DR guidelines.  The community views the legal challenge proposal is an unfounded and knee-jerk reaction to a state wide systematic DR reform that does not support a Monash Council’s legacy operational and administrative decision, which is also contributing to the fragmentation and inconsistency of DR applications in Victorian Councils.

 The decision to pursue this Ministry challenge was developed “on the fly” hours before and even during the last Council meeting. This means there has been NO proper legislative research and cost-benefit impact analysis, including impact on budget plans. Ratepayers will not fund such a reactive and unfounded endeavor that also reflects the bipartisan political conflicts and game being played by some Councillors regarding State and Federal decisions. Council is NOT the place for such bipartisan conflicts and debates.

 The loud & clear message to all our rebellious Councillors – MONASH RATEPAYERS WILL NOT SUPPORT YOU TO CHALLENGE THE MINISTER!!!”

The key reasons MRI does not support the defiant Councillors’ decision is they did not address the following important matters in their debates:

  • The costs of such legal challenge and whether these costs are out-of-budget expenditures;
  • The administration time and hence in-house costs of people in correcting the non-compliance in budget management systems should Council lose the legal case or when the State Government enforce mandatory compliance;
  • Details of other viable funding strategies and evaluation criteria to show best value selection of the first, second, etc preference of solution alternatives;
  • Well founded details of how the Monash EGM DR program fulfils the State DR Guidelines’ objectives;
  • Specifications of KPI measures to prove viable and tangible benefits would be delivered to our problem gambling community members.

They already collected ~$200,000 and spent on over charged consultancy fees that is significantly above market rates, to understand the local problems. If the ethical moral is for real, most of this money should benefit the troubled gamblers first, not to consultants for over charged research work (which excluded solutions development).

 

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MRI Review on Councillors’ Reimbursements

Reimbursement 1Each quarter, MRI will review Councillors’ reimbursement claims recorded on Council files.  Click here for Q1 2013 review findings.

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