Strathbogie Shire Council was one of four Victorian councils randomly selected to participate in the Victorian Auditor General’s Office Audit (VAGO) on fraud and corruption control in Local Government. The report concluded there was no fraud or corruption detected at Strathbogie, but it did identify expenditure where it was unclear how residents and ratepayers benefited, practices that may not meet public expectations and non‐compliance with legislative requirements aimed at ensuring transparency over council practices to their communities and regulators. We understand the community’s concern and disappointment. Council is also disappointed by the breadth of improper actions highlighted in the VAGO report and the organisation’s failure to meet the expectations of our community. Our focus is to implement an action plan that will improve our governance and practices and the culture of the organisation to adhere to them. Significant resources have been allocated to address the recommendations in the VAGO report and improve our policies and practices.
Council’s response and Action Plan Since we received the first draft of the VAGO Audit report, Council started a process to address issues outlined in the report. For example, we immediately stopped the process of selling cars to staff. In addition to the short-term actions, we have developed a comprehensive action plan, with input from VAGO, Council and Council’s audit committee, which will systematically review and improve our systems and processes. Strathbogie Shire Council has policies regarding expenditure. The first step is reviewing these to ensure they are clear and rigorous. The second step is to improve the culture of the organisation to ensure these are understood and consistently adhered to.
Updated Policies and Procedures:
- Purchasing Card Policy
- Council Expenses Policy
- Disposal of Council Assets Policy
- Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality Policy
Along with the adoption of a new robust Councillor Support, Resources, Reimbursement and Reporting of Expenses Policy, Council has also published a breakdown of Councillor expenses for 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. Councillor expenses include expenses reimbursed to councillors and those paid directly by council as a result of costs incurred by a councillor performing their duties. Expenses can vary quite substantially between councillors, often due to the variation in distances of travel, the number of meetings and events attended by each councillor and the personal decision of each councillor in choosing to claim or not claim their expenses.
Mayoral expenses are often the highest given the role of the mayor as council’s figurehead and chief community advocate. Expenses must be reported by categories defined by the State Government, namely car mileage, child and family care, conferences and training, information and communication technology and travel expenses.
The ‘other expenses’ category has been created to cover other expenses that cannot be attributed to any of the defined categories and include costs such as printer cartridges and stationery.
- 2016-17 Councillor Expenses
- 2017-18 Councillor Expenses
- 2018-19 Councillor Expenses
- 2019-20 Councillor Expenses
- Frequently Asked Questions for Councillor Expenses
If you have any further questions relating to the VAGO Audit report or Council’s VAGO Action Plan, you can fill in a request for information form and we will get back to you as soon as we can. Alternatively, contact Council Offices on 1800 065 993 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you with a response as soon as possible.