Secret agenda: Behind closed doors

Source The Age

Melbourne City Council is making too many decisions without the glare of public scrutiny, according to a former lord mayor.

The agenda for next Tuesday’s council meeting lists seven items for discussion as ”confidential” with only one item disclosed to the public.

Former lord mayor Kevin Chamberlin said the council, in charge of an annual budget worth hundreds of millions of dollars, was operating too much in secrecy.

”When you look at a council meeting agenda you get the distinct impression the real business is done behind closed doors,” Mr Chamberlin said.

The closed shop at Tuesday’s council meeting comes after The Age reported in May the lord mayor was conducting ”councillor-only meetings” that did not require minutes to be taken or councillors to declare a conflict of interest because no council staff were present.

Cr Carl Jetter, who said he represented business interests in the council, said it was a long-standing convention for the past three to four terms to have more internal discussions on operations.

”It’s not for the public or ratepayers to know,” Cr Jetter said.

But lord mayor Robert Doyle said the council was more transparent than State Parliament – despite debates in Parliament being open to the public.

”Tuesday’s meeting agenda with so many confidential items is unusual,” Cr Doyle said.

”All nine councillors, regardless of how long they have been a councillor, are free to bring up discussions to question the confidential nature of matters.”

City of Melbourne chief executive Dr Kathy Alexander said in a prepared statement: ”The City of Melbourne understands the importance of being open and transparent with its ratepayers, however there are some specific matters as outlined in the Local Government Act that cannot be discussed in open council.”

Secret agenda: Behind closed doors

Source The Age

Melbourne City Council is making too many decisions without the glare of public scrutiny, according to a former lord mayor.

The agenda for next Tuesday’s council meeting lists seven items for discussion as ”confidential” with only one item disclosed to the public.

Former lord mayor Kevin Chamberlin said the council, in charge of an annual budget worth hundreds of millions of dollars, was operating too much in secrecy.

”When you look at a council meeting agenda you get the distinct impression the real business is done behind closed doors,” Mr Chamberlin said.

The closed shop at Tuesday’s council meeting comes after The Age reported in May the lord mayor was conducting ”councillor-only meetings” that did not require minutes to be taken or councillors to declare a conflict of interest because no council staff were present.

Cr Carl Jetter, who said he represented business interests in the council, said it was a long-standing convention for the past three to four terms to have more internal discussions on operations.

”It’s not for the public or ratepayers to know,” Cr Jetter said.

But lord mayor Robert Doyle said the council was more transparent than State Parliament – despite debates in Parliament being open to the public.

”Tuesday’s meeting agenda with so many confidential items is unusual,” Cr Doyle said.

”All nine councillors, regardless of how long they have been a councillor, are free to bring up discussions to question the confidential nature of matters.”

City of Melbourne chief executive Dr Kathy Alexander said in a prepared statement: ”The City of Melbourne understands the importance of being open and transparent with its ratepayers, however there are some specific matters as outlined in the Local Government Act that cannot be discussed in open council.”

Secret agenda: Behind closed doors

Source The Age

Melbourne City Council is making too many decisions without the glare of public scrutiny, according to a former lord mayor.

The agenda for next Tuesday’s council meeting lists seven items for discussion as ”confidential” with only one item disclosed to the public.

Former lord mayor Kevin Chamberlin said the council, in charge of an annual budget worth hundreds of millions of dollars, was operating too much in secrecy.

”When you look at a council meeting agenda you get the distinct impression the real business is done behind closed doors,” Mr Chamberlin said.

The closed shop at Tuesday’s council meeting comes after The Age reported in May the lord mayor was conducting ”councillor-only meetings” that did not require minutes to be taken or councillors to declare a conflict of interest because no council staff were present.

Cr Carl Jetter, who said he represented business interests in the council, said it was a long-standing convention for the past three to four terms to have more internal discussions on operations.

”It’s not for the public or ratepayers to know,” Cr Jetter said.

But lord mayor Robert Doyle said the council was more transparent than State Parliament – despite debates in Parliament being open to the public.

”Tuesday’s meeting agenda with so many confidential items is unusual,” Cr Doyle said.

”All nine councillors, regardless of how long they have been a councillor, are free to bring up discussions to question the confidential nature of matters.”

City of Melbourne chief executive Dr Kathy Alexander said in a prepared statement: ”The City of Melbourne understands the importance of being open and transparent with its ratepayers, however there are some specific matters as outlined in the Local Government Act that cannot be discussed in open council.”

City Junkets without Budget Council publishes next years budget but failed to provide details of expenses

Melbourne City Council will today published ts 2006-2007 budget papers. Whilst we have not had time to review the published documents (They were not available on the Council’s web site when we looked this morning)

The Herald Sun, who it seams has been given an advance copy, has reported that the City of Melbourne is seeking to install parking meters as a means revenue raising to help pay for the Junkets. Lurks and Perks of the City Council.

Unfortunately the City Council does not provide budget details for overseas trips, internal catering (free lunches and free booze) and the costs of the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayors Limousines. Councillor expenses are all met form the consolidated revenue.

Previous Auditors reports which continue to be ignore4d have recommended that Council set a budget for Councillor expenses and that a regular normal budget comparison be made each month. The City Council administration continues to refuse to provide this information or act responsibly.

If we find time we will resubmit our requests for financial details of Councilors travel expenses and cost of internal catering etc. Hopefully they will respond… but do not hold your breath the City Administration and the elected Council do not want to be held accountable let alone inform the public of were their money is going… Sad but true.

Drivers to help fund council’s trips
Jen Kelly
25may06

PARKING meters will be installed in Lygon St and more are proposed for Melbourne Zoo’s car park in a hip-pocket blow to families and shoppers.

The bid to suck an extra $800,000 a year out of drivers is revealed in the Melbourne City Council budget papers, to be released today.
It comes as the council — already under fire for its exotic junkets — lifts the annual budget for overseas programs and trips by about $400,000.

Traders are furious at the new parking fees, saying they will scare shoppers out of Lygon St and make zoo visits impossible for families.

The council expects to reap a record $54.2 million in parking fines and fees next financial year, budget papers show.

The documents show:

RATES will rise by 3.8 per cent on average.

RATEPAYERS will pay up to $1 million for the FINA world swimming championships at Rod Laver Arena next year.

AN extra $300,000 is expected to be spent on removing graffiti.

STAFF costs have soared 42 per cent to $74 million in just four years.

Councillors have agreed on meters in Lygon St, but those proposed for the zoo’s northern car park, next to Royal Park station, are still up for debate.

The zoo’s meters are predicted to raise $400,000 a year, with the revenue to subsidise the high cost of fixing the car park, which is in disrepair.

Lygon St meters are expected to generate another $400,000 a year.

Carlton Traders Association president Connie Paglianite said parking meters in Lygon St would be a disaster.

“It’s going to kill Carlton,” she said.

“The coffee’s not going to cost $3. It’s going to cost $5 or $6.”

Finance spokesman Cr Brian Shanahan it was surprising meters had not already been installed.

“You’ve got parking meters in Errol St (in North Melbourne). Why not in Lygon St?” he said.

Ms Paglianite, also a member of voluntary support group Friends of the Zoo, said parking meters at the zoo would make it hard on families.

“It’s hard enough trying to find car parking, let alone paying for it on top of that,” she said.

Cr Peter Clarke criticised parts of the budget and said funding to the swimming championships should be cut from $1 million to $700,000.

“We need to be funding local projects that are important to the ratepayers and residents,” he said.

Cr Clarke said the additional $400,000 for overseas travel and international links, especially with Milan, Delhi and China, should be dumped.

“I think sometimes local government can get too excited about its capacity to generate international trade.”

Cr Clarke said a lot more money should be spent on child care and other local priorities.

Parking fines in 2006-07 are expected to reap almost $28 million while parking fees are hoped to earn $26 million.

Total revenue is expected to be $245 million, with $127.7 million in rates.

The budget papers are expected to be approved at a council meeting today.

City Junkets without Budget Council publishes next years budget but failed to provide details of expenses

Melbourne City Council will today published ts 2006-2007 budget papers. Whilst we have not had time to review the published documents (They were not available on the Council’s web site when we looked this morning)

The Herald Sun, who it seams has been given an advance copy, has reported that the City of Melbourne is seeking to install parking meters as a means revenue raising to help pay for the Junkets. Lurks and Perks of the City Council.

Unfortunately the City Council does not provide budget details for overseas trips, internal catering (free lunches and free booze) and the costs of the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayors Limousines. Councillor expenses are all met form the consolidated revenue.

Previous Auditors reports which continue to be ignore4d have recommended that Council set a budget for Councillor expenses and that a regular normal budget comparison be made each month. The City Council administration continues to refuse to provide this information or act responsibly.

If we find time we will resubmit our requests for financial details of Councilors travel expenses and cost of internal catering etc. Hopefully they will respond… but do not hold your breath the City Administration and the elected Council do not want to be held accountable let alone inform the public of were their money is going… Sad but true.

Drivers to help fund council’s trips
Jen Kelly
25may06

PARKING meters will be installed in Lygon St and more are proposed for Melbourne Zoo’s car park in a hip-pocket blow to families and shoppers.

The bid to suck an extra $800,000 a year out of drivers is revealed in the Melbourne City Council budget papers, to be released today.
It comes as the council — already under fire for its exotic junkets — lifts the annual budget for overseas programs and trips by about $400,000.

Traders are furious at the new parking fees, saying they will scare shoppers out of Lygon St and make zoo visits impossible for families.

The council expects to reap a record $54.2 million in parking fines and fees next financial year, budget papers show.

The documents show:

RATES will rise by 3.8 per cent on average.

RATEPAYERS will pay up to $1 million for the FINA world swimming championships at Rod Laver Arena next year.

AN extra $300,000 is expected to be spent on removing graffiti.

STAFF costs have soared 42 per cent to $74 million in just four years.

Councillors have agreed on meters in Lygon St, but those proposed for the zoo’s northern car park, next to Royal Park station, are still up for debate.

The zoo’s meters are predicted to raise $400,000 a year, with the revenue to subsidise the high cost of fixing the car park, which is in disrepair.

Lygon St meters are expected to generate another $400,000 a year.

Carlton Traders Association president Connie Paglianite said parking meters in Lygon St would be a disaster.

“It’s going to kill Carlton,” she said.

“The coffee’s not going to cost $3. It’s going to cost $5 or $6.”

Finance spokesman Cr Brian Shanahan it was surprising meters had not already been installed.

“You’ve got parking meters in Errol St (in North Melbourne). Why not in Lygon St?” he said.

Ms Paglianite, also a member of voluntary support group Friends of the Zoo, said parking meters at the zoo would make it hard on families.

“It’s hard enough trying to find car parking, let alone paying for it on top of that,” she said.

Cr Peter Clarke criticised parts of the budget and said funding to the swimming championships should be cut from $1 million to $700,000.

“We need to be funding local projects that are important to the ratepayers and residents,” he said.

Cr Clarke said the additional $400,000 for overseas travel and international links, especially with Milan, Delhi and China, should be dumped.

“I think sometimes local government can get too excited about its capacity to generate international trade.”

Cr Clarke said a lot more money should be spent on child care and other local priorities.

Parking fines in 2006-07 are expected to reap almost $28 million while parking fees are hoped to earn $26 million.

Total revenue is expected to be $245 million, with $127.7 million in rates.

The budget papers are expected to be approved at a council meeting today.

City Junkets without Budget Council publishes next years budget but failed to provide details of expenses

Melbourne City Council will today published ts 2006-2007 budget papers. Whilst we have not had time to review the published documents (They were not available on the Council’s web site when we looked this morning)

The Herald Sun, who it seams has been given an advance copy, has reported that the City of Melbourne is seeking to install parking meters as a means revenue raising to help pay for the Junkets. Lurks and Perks of the City Council.

Unfortunately the City Council does not provide budget details for overseas trips, internal catering (free lunches and free booze) and the costs of the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayors Limousines. Councillor expenses are all met form the consolidated revenue.

Previous Auditors reports which continue to be ignore4d have recommended that Council set a budget for Councillor expenses and that a regular normal budget comparison be made each month. The City Council administration continues to refuse to provide this information or act responsibly.

If we find time we will resubmit our requests for financial details of Councilors travel expenses and cost of internal catering etc. Hopefully they will respond… but do not hold your breath the City Administration and the elected Council do not want to be held accountable let alone inform the public of were their money is going… Sad but true.

Drivers to help fund council’s trips
Jen Kelly
25may06

PARKING meters will be installed in Lygon St and more are proposed for Melbourne Zoo’s car park in a hip-pocket blow to families and shoppers.

The bid to suck an extra $800,000 a year out of drivers is revealed in the Melbourne City Council budget papers, to be released today.
It comes as the council — already under fire for its exotic junkets — lifts the annual budget for overseas programs and trips by about $400,000.

Traders are furious at the new parking fees, saying they will scare shoppers out of Lygon St and make zoo visits impossible for families.

The council expects to reap a record $54.2 million in parking fines and fees next financial year, budget papers show.

The documents show:

RATES will rise by 3.8 per cent on average.

RATEPAYERS will pay up to $1 million for the FINA world swimming championships at Rod Laver Arena next year.

AN extra $300,000 is expected to be spent on removing graffiti.

STAFF costs have soared 42 per cent to $74 million in just four years.

Councillors have agreed on meters in Lygon St, but those proposed for the zoo’s northern car park, next to Royal Park station, are still up for debate.

The zoo’s meters are predicted to raise $400,000 a year, with the revenue to subsidise the high cost of fixing the car park, which is in disrepair.

Lygon St meters are expected to generate another $400,000 a year.

Carlton Traders Association president Connie Paglianite said parking meters in Lygon St would be a disaster.

“It’s going to kill Carlton,” she said.

“The coffee’s not going to cost $3. It’s going to cost $5 or $6.”

Finance spokesman Cr Brian Shanahan it was surprising meters had not already been installed.

“You’ve got parking meters in Errol St (in North Melbourne). Why not in Lygon St?” he said.

Ms Paglianite, also a member of voluntary support group Friends of the Zoo, said parking meters at the zoo would make it hard on families.

“It’s hard enough trying to find car parking, let alone paying for it on top of that,” she said.

Cr Peter Clarke criticised parts of the budget and said funding to the swimming championships should be cut from $1 million to $700,000.

“We need to be funding local projects that are important to the ratepayers and residents,” he said.

Cr Clarke said the additional $400,000 for overseas travel and international links, especially with Milan, Delhi and China, should be dumped.

“I think sometimes local government can get too excited about its capacity to generate international trade.”

Cr Clarke said a lot more money should be spent on child care and other local priorities.

Parking fines in 2006-07 are expected to reap almost $28 million while parking fees are hoped to earn $26 million.

Total revenue is expected to be $245 million, with $127.7 million in rates.

The budget papers are expected to be approved at a council meeting today.

Chooks have raided the grain store again Melbourne City Council administration and Lord Mayor, John So, on credit spending frenzy

The Herald-Sun has published an expose by Jen Kelly on the front page of today’s newspaper. The report summarises Council expenditure on various junkets and other expenses all paid for by Council funded credit cards.

Whilst we have not yet made a comparison of the information published with other council expense statements – Which are due out at the end of this month. What is clear is that the use of Council funded credit cards are widely open to abuse.

In the previous 12 months the City of Melbourne has spent over $130,000 on credit with the Lord Mayor, john So and senior officers using Council funded credit cards as a means of ready available personal cash. Whilst some of this money is refunded to the Council the Council still has to foots the bill for interest payments.

Still missing from the Councils expense account is the detail expenditure of the Lord Mayor and deputy Lord Mayor’s Limousine costs. The costs of Internal Catering including free booze made available for senior staff and Councillors.

The City Council has yet to respond to our request for the publication of these expenses. Linda Weatherstone, City Council Governance Officers continues to go out of her way to avoid disclosure and open and transparent governance.

The City Council continue to mis-use and abuse its responsibility to readily provide public information on the expenses of the City Council. Previous information has shown the Council continue to doctor reports and alter information at will to avoid accountability. (Missing was over $10,000 of undisclosed expenses directly attributed to Council’s overseas and interstate travel.)

Whilst the Melbourne CEO continues to claim that all expenses are subject to an audit by Ernst and Young the fact remains that the system and published expenses are difficult if not outright impossible to effectively audit./ many recommendations by the auditors and others go undressed. The Council’s Travel register is effectively maintained on an electronic white board and is widely open to abuse.

Recommendations to include a secure sequential id number, cross checks and balances have been ignored by the City Council . The Council’s audit committee meets in secret (contrary to the provisions of the Local Government Act and regulations). Lets not forget last months revelations where the Council was found to have misappropriate millions of dollars in illegal fines.

Clearly there is a need to more open and transparent reporting of detailed auditors
reports

The Council has an obligation to the community and Melbourne ratepayers to account for this information. The refusal of the City Council to readily provide information outside the freedom of information act is an abuse of process and one that the elected City Council has failed to address.

If we do not hear from the Council by the end of this month the City of Melbourne can expect a complaint to the State Ombudsman and Attorney Generals department.

Crazy credit spree
Jen Kelly, city editor
26apr06

EXTRAVAGANT credit-card spending by Melbourne City Council chiefs has left ratepayers with bills for tenpin bowling, fancy dress costumes and exotic junkets.

Lord Mayor John So, his executives and staff splurged $130,000 with credit cards in a year, including on movie tickets, bike hire and trips to Healesville Sanctuary.
Lavish five-star hotel accommodation in London, New York, San Francisco, Boston and China added tens of thousands of dollars.

A Herald Sun investigation of council credit cards found a bill for $1200 to Richmond’s Exotic Car Rentals for two open-top BMWs in the F1 Grand Prix parade.

Ratepayers paid for fashion festival tickets for staff and an $85 Bicycle Victoria membership for a council officer.

Cr So and staff reimbursed ratepayers for items including groceries and gifts after wrongly using cards.

Statements obtained under Freedom of Information laws show ratepayers paid $802 for staff to go to Kingpin Bowling Lounge for a “team building event”.

The Crown casino venue boasts a bar, DJ music, disco lighting, pool tables and waiter service.

Acting sustainable policy manager Andrew McCulloch paid $188 to hire a tandem bike and a three-seater bike to promote Ride to Work Day.

Another $180 was spent on Melbourne Football Club memorabilia for Chinese leaders after they were made honorary members.

Meeting rooms were hired at top hotels including the Westin and Stamford Plaza, despite free rooms at Melbourne Town Hall. Last year deputy Lord Mayor Gary Singer demanded one meeting room be converted into an office for him.

The total bill for the council’s 58 credit cards was $132,056.64 for the 12 months to November 2005.

Anthony van der Craats, who runs a website that seeks to hold the council to account, said Town Hall spending on bureaucratic expenses was out of control.

“The time has come to provide good governance and to put an end to the misuse and abuse of council funds,” he said.

Southbank Residents Group president Joe Bagnara said $130,000 was exorbitant.

“It seems they have no conscience when it comes to spending ratepayers’ money on spurious things,” he said.

“If I were the CEO I wouldn’t allow people to go out tenpin bowling. If they want to do that, they can do it in their own time and pay for it.”

CEO David Pitchford’s eight interstate and overseas trips last year included a $13,700 stay in Britain, separate documents show.

He used his credit card to buy a $57 book from London’s Freud Museum, formerly the home of Sigmund Freud.

A trip to China in September, including a three-night $1300 stay at the five-star Grand Hotel Beijing, a former palace overlooking the Forbidden City, cost another $12,400.

Ratepayers also spent $760 to send council staff to a lecture on English, especially punctuation and grammar, in 2004.

Staff paid $231 last year to hire a rooster costume from Madgear in Balwyn to promote Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rooster.

A manager paid almost $100 for Village movie tickets as excellence awards for staff. And $319 of Hoyts tickets were given as prizes to schoolchildren in a road safety competition.

Ratepayers spent almost $400,000 in 12 months, partly on credit cards, on trips.

In 2004, a staff member bought $290 in gifts for the Lord Mayor of St Louis in Mauritius at the Kirra Gallery.

Staff spent $352 on admission fees to Healesville Sanctuary for VIPs from overseas on two days in late 2004.

Executives passed on even small expenses.

Business Melbourne manager Peter Chaffey swiped his card for a $7 parking fee.

Sustainable policy manager Mark Woodland reimbursed the council after he wrongly used a credit card last year to pay for $51 of groceries at Apollo Bay IGA and $79 for personal items in Port Campbell.

Cr So reimbursed $9.43 three months after charging a refreshment to his credit card at the Hong Kong Hotel. Other councillors do not have credit cards.

Mr Pitchford said auditors Ernst and Young found the use of the cards was best-practice.

“Use of purchase cards at the City of Melbourne is subject to rigorous control,” he said.

“All overseas travel by staff is approved by the chief executive . . . Travel is only to be undertaken where it delivers direct benefit to the city.”

Chooks have raided the grain store again Melbourne City Council administration and Lord Mayor, John So, on credit spending frenzy

The Herald-Sun has published an expose by Jen Kelly on the front page of today’s newspaper. The report summarises Council expenditure on various junkets and other expenses all paid for by Council funded credit cards.

Whilst we have not yet made a comparison of the information published with other council expense statements – Which are due out at the end of this month. What is clear is that the use of Council funded credit cards are widely open to abuse.

In the previous 12 months the City of Melbourne has spent over $130,000 on credit with the Lord Mayor, john So and senior officers using Council funded credit cards as a means of ready available personal cash. Whilst some of this money is refunded to the Council the Council still has to foots the bill for interest payments.

Still missing from the Councils expense account is the detail expenditure of the Lord Mayor and deputy Lord Mayor’s Limousine costs. The costs of Internal Catering including free booze made available for senior staff and Councillors.

The City Council has yet to respond to our request for the publication of these expenses. Linda Weatherstone, City Council Governance Officers continues to go out of her way to avoid disclosure and open and transparent governance.

The City Council continue to mis-use and abuse its responsibility to readily provide public information on the expenses of the City Council. Previous information has shown the Council continue to doctor reports and alter information at will to avoid accountability. (Missing was over $10,000 of undisclosed expenses directly attributed to Council’s overseas and interstate travel.)

Whilst the Melbourne CEO continues to claim that all expenses are subject to an audit by Ernst and Young the fact remains that the system and published expenses are difficult if not outright impossible to effectively audit./ many recommendations by the auditors and others go undressed. The Council’s Travel register is effectively maintained on an electronic white board and is widely open to abuse.

Recommendations to include a secure sequential id number, cross checks and balances have been ignored by the City Council . The Council’s audit committee meets in secret (contrary to the provisions of the Local Government Act and regulations). Lets not forget last months revelations where the Council was found to have misappropriate millions of dollars in illegal fines.

Clearly there is a need to more open and transparent reporting of detailed auditors
reports

The Council has an obligation to the community and Melbourne ratepayers to account for this information. The refusal of the City Council to readily provide information outside the freedom of information act is an abuse of process and one that the elected City Council has failed to address.

If we do not hear from the Council by the end of this month the City of Melbourne can expect a complaint to the State Ombudsman and Attorney Generals department.

Crazy credit spree
Jen Kelly, city editor
26apr06

EXTRAVAGANT credit-card spending by Melbourne City Council chiefs has left ratepayers with bills for tenpin bowling, fancy dress costumes and exotic junkets.

Lord Mayor John So, his executives and staff splurged $130,000 with credit cards in a year, including on movie tickets, bike hire and trips to Healesville Sanctuary.
Lavish five-star hotel accommodation in London, New York, San Francisco, Boston and China added tens of thousands of dollars.

A Herald Sun investigation of council credit cards found a bill for $1200 to Richmond’s Exotic Car Rentals for two open-top BMWs in the F1 Grand Prix parade.

Ratepayers paid for fashion festival tickets for staff and an $85 Bicycle Victoria membership for a council officer.

Cr So and staff reimbursed ratepayers for items including groceries and gifts after wrongly using cards.

Statements obtained under Freedom of Information laws show ratepayers paid $802 for staff to go to Kingpin Bowling Lounge for a “team building event”.

The Crown casino venue boasts a bar, DJ music, disco lighting, pool tables and waiter service.

Acting sustainable policy manager Andrew McCulloch paid $188 to hire a tandem bike and a three-seater bike to promote Ride to Work Day.

Another $180 was spent on Melbourne Football Club memorabilia for Chinese leaders after they were made honorary members.

Meeting rooms were hired at top hotels including the Westin and Stamford Plaza, despite free rooms at Melbourne Town Hall. Last year deputy Lord Mayor Gary Singer demanded one meeting room be converted into an office for him.

The total bill for the council’s 58 credit cards was $132,056.64 for the 12 months to November 2005.

Anthony van der Craats, who runs a website that seeks to hold the council to account, said Town Hall spending on bureaucratic expenses was out of control.

“The time has come to provide good governance and to put an end to the misuse and abuse of council funds,” he said.

Southbank Residents Group president Joe Bagnara said $130,000 was exorbitant.

“It seems they have no conscience when it comes to spending ratepayers’ money on spurious things,” he said.

“If I were the CEO I wouldn’t allow people to go out tenpin bowling. If they want to do that, they can do it in their own time and pay for it.”

CEO David Pitchford’s eight interstate and overseas trips last year included a $13,700 stay in Britain, separate documents show.

He used his credit card to buy a $57 book from London’s Freud Museum, formerly the home of Sigmund Freud.

A trip to China in September, including a three-night $1300 stay at the five-star Grand Hotel Beijing, a former palace overlooking the Forbidden City, cost another $12,400.

Ratepayers also spent $760 to send council staff to a lecture on English, especially punctuation and grammar, in 2004.

Staff paid $231 last year to hire a rooster costume from Madgear in Balwyn to promote Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rooster.

A manager paid almost $100 for Village movie tickets as excellence awards for staff. And $319 of Hoyts tickets were given as prizes to schoolchildren in a road safety competition.

Ratepayers spent almost $400,000 in 12 months, partly on credit cards, on trips.

In 2004, a staff member bought $290 in gifts for the Lord Mayor of St Louis in Mauritius at the Kirra Gallery.

Staff spent $352 on admission fees to Healesville Sanctuary for VIPs from overseas on two days in late 2004.

Executives passed on even small expenses.

Business Melbourne manager Peter Chaffey swiped his card for a $7 parking fee.

Sustainable policy manager Mark Woodland reimbursed the council after he wrongly used a credit card last year to pay for $51 of groceries at Apollo Bay IGA and $79 for personal items in Port Campbell.

Cr So reimbursed $9.43 three months after charging a refreshment to his credit card at the Hong Kong Hotel. Other councillors do not have credit cards.

Mr Pitchford said auditors Ernst and Young found the use of the cards was best-practice.

“Use of purchase cards at the City of Melbourne is subject to rigorous control,” he said.

“All overseas travel by staff is approved by the chief executive . . . Travel is only to be undertaken where it delivers direct benefit to the city.”

Chooks have raided the grain store again Melbourne City Council administration and Lord Mayor, John So, on credit spending frenzy

The Herald-Sun has published an expose by Jen Kelly on the front page of today’s newspaper. The report summarises Council expenditure on various junkets and other expenses all paid for by Council funded credit cards.

Whilst we have not yet made a comparison of the information published with other council expense statements – Which are due out at the end of this month. What is clear is that the use of Council funded credit cards are widely open to abuse.

In the previous 12 months the City of Melbourne has spent over $130,000 on credit with the Lord Mayor, john So and senior officers using Council funded credit cards as a means of ready available personal cash. Whilst some of this money is refunded to the Council the Council still has to foots the bill for interest payments.

Still missing from the Councils expense account is the detail expenditure of the Lord Mayor and deputy Lord Mayor’s Limousine costs. The costs of Internal Catering including free booze made available for senior staff and Councillors.

The City Council has yet to respond to our request for the publication of these expenses. Linda Weatherstone, City Council Governance Officers continues to go out of her way to avoid disclosure and open and transparent governance.

The City Council continue to mis-use and abuse its responsibility to readily provide public information on the expenses of the City Council. Previous information has shown the Council continue to doctor reports and alter information at will to avoid accountability. (Missing was over $10,000 of undisclosed expenses directly attributed to Council’s overseas and interstate travel.)

Whilst the Melbourne CEO continues to claim that all expenses are subject to an audit by Ernst and Young the fact remains that the system and published expenses are difficult if not outright impossible to effectively audit./ many recommendations by the auditors and others go undressed. The Council’s Travel register is effectively maintained on an electronic white board and is widely open to abuse.

Recommendations to include a secure sequential id number, cross checks and balances have been ignored by the City Council . The Council’s audit committee meets in secret (contrary to the provisions of the Local Government Act and regulations). Lets not forget last months revelations where the Council was found to have misappropriate millions of dollars in illegal fines.

Clearly there is a need to more open and transparent reporting of detailed auditors
reports

The Council has an obligation to the community and Melbourne ratepayers to account for this information. The refusal of the City Council to readily provide information outside the freedom of information act is an abuse of process and one that the elected City Council has failed to address.

If we do not hear from the Council by the end of this month the City of Melbourne can expect a complaint to the State Ombudsman and Attorney Generals department.

Crazy credit spree
Jen Kelly, city editor
26apr06

EXTRAVAGANT credit-card spending by Melbourne City Council chiefs has left ratepayers with bills for tenpin bowling, fancy dress costumes and exotic junkets.

Lord Mayor John So, his executives and staff splurged $130,000 with credit cards in a year, including on movie tickets, bike hire and trips to Healesville Sanctuary.
Lavish five-star hotel accommodation in London, New York, San Francisco, Boston and China added tens of thousands of dollars.

A Herald Sun investigation of council credit cards found a bill for $1200 to Richmond’s Exotic Car Rentals for two open-top BMWs in the F1 Grand Prix parade.

Ratepayers paid for fashion festival tickets for staff and an $85 Bicycle Victoria membership for a council officer.

Cr So and staff reimbursed ratepayers for items including groceries and gifts after wrongly using cards.

Statements obtained under Freedom of Information laws show ratepayers paid $802 for staff to go to Kingpin Bowling Lounge for a “team building event”.

The Crown casino venue boasts a bar, DJ music, disco lighting, pool tables and waiter service.

Acting sustainable policy manager Andrew McCulloch paid $188 to hire a tandem bike and a three-seater bike to promote Ride to Work Day.

Another $180 was spent on Melbourne Football Club memorabilia for Chinese leaders after they were made honorary members.

Meeting rooms were hired at top hotels including the Westin and Stamford Plaza, despite free rooms at Melbourne Town Hall. Last year deputy Lord Mayor Gary Singer demanded one meeting room be converted into an office for him.

The total bill for the council’s 58 credit cards was $132,056.64 for the 12 months to November 2005.

Anthony van der Craats, who runs a website that seeks to hold the council to account, said Town Hall spending on bureaucratic expenses was out of control.

“The time has come to provide good governance and to put an end to the misuse and abuse of council funds,” he said.

Southbank Residents Group president Joe Bagnara said $130,000 was exorbitant.

“It seems they have no conscience when it comes to spending ratepayers’ money on spurious things,” he said.

“If I were the CEO I wouldn’t allow people to go out tenpin bowling. If they want to do that, they can do it in their own time and pay for it.”

CEO David Pitchford’s eight interstate and overseas trips last year included a $13,700 stay in Britain, separate documents show.

He used his credit card to buy a $57 book from London’s Freud Museum, formerly the home of Sigmund Freud.

A trip to China in September, including a three-night $1300 stay at the five-star Grand Hotel Beijing, a former palace overlooking the Forbidden City, cost another $12,400.

Ratepayers also spent $760 to send council staff to a lecture on English, especially punctuation and grammar, in 2004.

Staff paid $231 last year to hire a rooster costume from Madgear in Balwyn to promote Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rooster.

A manager paid almost $100 for Village movie tickets as excellence awards for staff. And $319 of Hoyts tickets were given as prizes to schoolchildren in a road safety competition.

Ratepayers spent almost $400,000 in 12 months, partly on credit cards, on trips.

In 2004, a staff member bought $290 in gifts for the Lord Mayor of St Louis in Mauritius at the Kirra Gallery.

Staff spent $352 on admission fees to Healesville Sanctuary for VIPs from overseas on two days in late 2004.

Executives passed on even small expenses.

Business Melbourne manager Peter Chaffey swiped his card for a $7 parking fee.

Sustainable policy manager Mark Woodland reimbursed the council after he wrongly used a credit card last year to pay for $51 of groceries at Apollo Bay IGA and $79 for personal items in Port Campbell.

Cr So reimbursed $9.43 three months after charging a refreshment to his credit card at the Hong Kong Hotel. Other councillors do not have credit cards.

Mr Pitchford said auditors Ernst and Young found the use of the cards was best-practice.

“Use of purchase cards at the City of Melbourne is subject to rigorous control,” he said.

“All overseas travel by staff is approved by the chief executive . . . Travel is only to be undertaken where it delivers direct benefit to the city.”

Beyond the law Corruption in the Melbourne City Council exposed

The level of abuse and corruption in the Melbourne City Council has been exposed with th4 Victorian Ombudsman staging twice raids on the City of Melbourne to seize documents. The Age

The refusal of the Melbourne City Council to assist the Ombudsman ion its inquiries demonstrates our ongoing concern about the administration of the Melbourne City Council which has been in decline over the least six years ever since Micheal Malouf took over its management.

Answers to questions need to provided as to why the City Council did not co-operate with the Ombudsman enquiry and why was the Council administration involved in a cover-up?

What if any was the role of Alison Lyons, Melbourne City Council’s Legal-Governance Officer in the cover up?

The Melbourne City Council continue to avoid accountability by refusing to provide open and transparent governance. Many decisions are held behind closed doors with basic information associated with the costs of administration and governance withheld.

The revelations and comments published in the Age Newspaper give weight to the need for a independent review of the City’s governance. Alison Lyon’s has left the den, did she jump or was she pushed. Other heads should roll? What knowledge and was the involvement in the cover up can be attributed to John So?

Melbourne’s ratepayers and the public must be provided with more information and full explanation.