Presentation by Heather Saint Ordinary Council Meeting 17 November 2014
In the spirit of transparency, in the public interest and in order to satisfy Community concerns, I present a public update using the democratic process, hopefully unsuppressed.
In April 2014 six Councillors committed $20,000 of ratepayers funds to commission a report into the Conduct of the past CEO - Mr Ray Hooper.
In July 2014 the Report was completed and published ready for community viewing and that same day the report was suppressed by 3 of those Councillors.
The infamous 'Fitzgerald Report' has since been reviewed and suppressed by: The Department of Local Governments, Minister, Tony Simpson, then handballed back to the Shire of York and is now in the hands of Local Government Insurance Services and a lawyer for the Shire, Feinauer Commercial (who's advice bill incidentally stands at approximately $45,000 to date).
It was the opinion of the original 'suppressors' that allegations within the report were unfounded and that the processes of natural justice and procedural fairness had not be extended to the named parties - ironically that did not extend to the named community members but, merely the CEO and Councillors named therein.
**Macri Partner Auditors were commissioned at a cost of $12-15,000 to prepare an audit of the CEO's credit cards and report back to the newly formed Finance, Risk & Audit Committee (FRAC) on behalf of the community.
At the OCM on 15 September it was apparent that the intention of some was to have the Credit Card investigation 'swept under the carpet'. I questioned the content of the Macri report and asked for access to further documents to compare with my own records, the CEO publicly agreed to provide those documents and the agenda item was deferred, however, no documents were forthcoming.
On 2 October I had an appointment at the Shire Office whereupon I requested copies of the audit information from the administration. I also provided a list of other invoices of interest. I was told that there were no staff available to assist, I said that I was happy to wait, which I did, for 3 and half hours. During that time I mentioned that there must be copies of the Macri audit material on site, if not only for record keeping purposes in accordance the State Records Act. I was told that they were probably in Tyhscha's office but she was off and the door was locked! Near close of business Mrs Maziuk offered me seven items and a hand written sticky note. The note reads.....
"Heather - Only have from July 2012 on site. All earlier are archived and will need to be retrieved... Monday 6/10/14 is earliest".
I was perplexed...firstly; why had taken 3 1/2 hours for so little and secondly; all seven of the items provided to me pre-dated July 2012 so, unless I am mistaken, must have been on site. Two of the items were not even tax invoices but copies of Credit Card transaction receipts.
By the date of the next FRAC meeting of 13 October, I had been given nothing further so I was unable to present findings to the Committee. It was apparent to me that the report that was being presented to the audit committee was incomplete and that they could not possibly be expected to make an informed decision based on what had been provided. Again I asked a question about missing documentation.... Fortunately, the response to me printed in those Minutes confirms that there were further documents and they would be presented to Council at the Council meeting of 20 October. The documents were not presented at that Council Meeting.
So, on 24 October I had to write to the CEO to chase the information requested. I did receive some documentation on 28 October, the rest still remains outstanding and, unfortunately, I may need to apply for access under Freedom of Information.
At the FRAC meeting on Monday last, 10 November 2014, the full Macri Partners Audit Report was finally presented to Council - Confidentially.
The Shire President (Matthew Reid) pressed to have the agenda item 'Confidential Report regarding an employee' discussed in the public arena on the basis that the Council should be open and accountable to the Community it serves. Unfortunately, he was outvoted and the matter went behind closed doors (in camera).
** Returning to the costs associated with the Audit Report - $12,000 plus.....
It is my personal opinion that for the money it has cost, the report is basic, unprofessional and has no depth. Not worth the paper it is written on.
It is a simple spreadsheet with data entry copied from the credit card statements. Invoices have then been matched to each entry and basically ticked off as acceptable. Those without an invoices were highlighted in yellow and presented to the audit committee. If the purpose of the spending was unknown it appears that the auditor simply contacted the Shire administration for a description, took their word for it and made the entry on the spreadsheet under the heading 'Comments by Officer'.
To my knowledge there was and has been no internal audit of any of the questionable entries in the document. The auditors wrote two letters to the (FRAC) Audit Committee, addressed to the Chair Person, the first letter in July and the second dated 3 September suggesting that the Committee investigate the report and satisfy community concerns. There was no follow up to this process.
I now understand that the correspondence may not have been forwarded to its addressee, the Chairperson of the Audit Committee (being Matthew Reid, also Shire President). Instead it was and has been opened and dealt with independently by the Shire administration.
At the last Finance, Risk & Audit Committee meeting I asked yet again for a copy of the invoice relating to spending of $2715.26 dated 20 May 2012 from Flight Centre Midland and allocated as 'Emergency Management'. Conversation ensued amongst the Committee members...it could not have been a Local Government course because the dates are wrong, it was probably Justin, yeh, yeh , must be emergency training blah blah blah.....
After several minutes of 'faffing about' and, as expected, the invoice could not be found. It was suggested that the administration contact Flight Centre to obtain a copy of the record. The recording of my questions at that meeting as minuted are total gobbledygook and make no sense whatsoever.
I re-iterate and leave you to ponder... the invoice could not be found,
No purchase order, No invoice, No description... 'Someone' has ticked 'Council Business related', the Comment by Officer box has been completed 'Governance/Council Business' ?? How, why, when and by whom?
I am yet to hear the outcome and what the $2715.26 missing invoice was for.
So, as it stands....
There has been no internal audit, documentation has been withheld, the FRAC Committee have not looked for or identified a problem, the matter has gone behind closed doors and as of 10 November, we now have a sub Committee of the FRAC committee to report back to the FRAC committee who will then report back to the Council who will report back to the Community but, only after they have made a decision behind closed doors which will more than likely be to 'sweep it all under the carpet'.
Matthew, (Mr President), I am, (as are many), aware of your intention to seek the truth and move this Community forward. It is also very evident that you are in a very vulnerable position and that because of your ethical standards, honest beliefs and desire to embrace your Community, you have effectively been silenced.
It would appear that some Councillors would rather be at War with you and the Community than resolve issues and move forward.
I have almost completed a report into my findings and confirm that there are many anomalies and serious matters of concern. However, I cannot present this information to the FRAC Committee as I feel it will simply disappear behind closed doors never to be seen or heard of again by this Community.
It is now for me to decide how to deal with the information I have and where it will be best received.