County council board suspended after ‘alarming financial irregularities’ discovered

NSW local government minister Ron Hoenig has suspended the board of the New England Weeds Authority (NEWA) and appointed an interim administrator following reports of financial mismanagement and governance concerns.

Ron Hoenig: alarmed

NEWA, the registered trading name of the New England County Council, has a governing body made up of elected representatives from Armidale Regional Council, Walcha Council, Uralla Shire Council and Glen Innes Severn Shire Council.

“I was alarmed by reports about the financial mismanagement and governance issues at NEWA which is why I have taken this immediate action,” Mr Hoenig said in a statement on Friday.

“The problems are of real concern, particularly given the potential impacts the financial instability of NEWA has for its four member councils which help fund its operations.”

This intervention was sparked after the Office of Local Government was made aware of financial irregularities at NEWA, including gaps in the organisation’s financial records.

“Further enquiries identified significant issues that could have implications for its partner councils,” Mr Hoenig said.

The board will be suspended for an initial period of three months with independent local government expert and former general manager John Rayner to act as administrator.

Mr Rayner is tasked with looking into the county council’s financial and operational concerns and will report back to the minister.

“Mr Rayner will help the Office of Local Government fully understand NEWA’s financial position and the extent of the challenges they are facing,” the minister said.

“This is a necessary measure to give confidence to staff and restore proper and effective functioning to the organisation,” the minister said.

NEWA is a single-purpose county council that operates as a Local Control Authority for the management of invasive weeds in the New England area.

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