Councillors’ Reimbursements Reviews

ReimbursementsMRI will also review Councillors’ reimbursement claims to detect and understand anomalies.

Q1 2013 Review

The first review was conducted 24 April 2013 – click here for the report. We found 3 deficiencies in current practice:

  • There is no sound cost management procedures as some Councillors continue to use their own personal plans and therefore claimed varying amounts. Despite, Council providing capped enterprise plans, Councillors are not committed to switch over to (what we assume are ) more competitive priced enterprise plans, hence indicating no concerns about cost management. We compared project month spends against average spends for the last 4 years and concluded that Councillors who were re-elected run the risk of consuming more telecommunication costs.
  • Administrative control procedures are lacking to check and question the integrity of claims, such as the claim anomaly relating to one Councillor’s excessive November claim, which we perceive is relating to expenses incurred in October, 2012 – an election and care taker month. This matter needs public explanation.
  •  The reimbursement policy potentially allows Councillors to make unlimited claim transactions under $500, hence potentially fostering poor cost management transparency and accountability. To make this policy effective, MRI believes an explicit total reimbursement limit per Councillor should be set to enable effective cost management.

The explanation for exceptionally high Oct/Nov claim is as follows:

“Under the Local Government Act 1989, a sitting councillor contesting an election is still obligated to serve his or her civic duties during the election/caretaker period. The duty of a councillor effectively ends if he or she is not re-elected on election day. For your information, it also states in the City of Monash’s caretaker policy that sitting councillors contesting an election are able to use their council equipment to undertake and support their civic duties during the caretaker period.

As you may know, during the 2012 local government election period last November, interest amongst residents and ratepayers in Monash on council’s role and its services were higher than normal. After receiving a letter of introduction I sent out during the election period, I received numerous inquiries and requests from residents to assist and advise them on issues of concern. During my first term and now my second, I have been an active and responsive Councillor working towards responding to every single inquiry I received to ensure residents in the Mount Waverley Ward are well represented and supported.”

A good governance culture will encourage address of such discoveries. MRI will leave it at the discretion and the conscience of our Council to address these identified policy, procedural & behavior cost management/control issues. Our role is to detect and publicly report these matters to enable transparency  in current Councillors’ Reimbursement Policy, administrative procedures and code of conduct. Over time, our reports will show consistent patterns that will make explicit to the community the evidence of cost management/control transparency and accountability strengths or gaps prevailing in Councillors’ reimbursement administration.

The next review will be June/July 2013.

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