NSW council probe finds “useless” budget documents filed to “no document management system at all”

Aussie money coins

Central Darling Shire Council in the far north west of New South Wales is to remain officially sin binned for at least another three months after the state’s Local Government Minister Don Page said more time was needed to by an interim administrator to get the council’s financial affairs back in order.

The state government’s extended intervention comes as Administrator Greg Wright revealed a catalogue of problems that were worse than initially expected for the council that had been in danger of not being able to pay its own staff’s wages.

Documents released by the NSW government reveal the beleaguered council, which includes the town of Wilcannia within its boundaries, “needs to take urgent steps to address the weaknesses in its accounting software.”

The documents also say that Central Darling Shire Council is still yet to facilitate ongoing arrangements with bankers, funding bodies, service providers and the NSW Roads and Maritime Service.

In a stinging assessment of Councillors’ performances the state government’s ‘suspension report assessment says that “most – if not all – of the maladies affecting the Council may be laid squarely at the feet of a lack of leadership and managerial expertise at both the elected and staff levels of the organisation.”

The report said a key problem was “the lack of a professional General Manager for almost the last two years” compounded by “troubled tenure with the previous two GMs for several years prior to that.”

The administrator also flagged “anecdotal evidence of a Councillor cohort overly concerned with day to day operational matters and with limited strategic focus or managerial competency.”

Some of the most withering criticism was directed at the councils’ poor financial management.

“There is no effective budget process in place and there is no assessment of progress against budget. The budget document is at such a high level as to be almost useless for management purposes,” the report said.

Getting a handle on what is (or isn’t) happening within Central Darling Shire’s offices hasn’t been helped by the of a paper trial, electronic or otherwise.

“There is no document management system at all, rendering the retention, accessibility and management of information highly problematic,” the report said.

The administrator also tipped a bucket on the high cost of the collection of rubbish. The report found that Central Darling Shire had three trucks and drivers to make a modest 700 collections a week – which compared to metropolitan collections that were around 1,000 ‘bin lift’ per day per compactor vehicle.

Garbage isn’t the only thing that moves slowly in Central Darling Shire.

The issue that has caused me the most difficulty in my role as Administrator at CDSC is the time delay involved in making any progress,” Mr Wright’s report said.

“The remoteness and small size of the Council organisation means that everything seems to take longer to accomplish as the lack of accessible resources (people, information, services) is severe.”

The report said that community reaction to the council being put into administration “has largely been positive” and that there was “acknowledgement that the Shire’s problems have not been addressed and that intervention is necessary.”

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