Detailed review reinforces Council’s approach to improve finances
Published on 05 May 2022
A detailed external review of Kiama Council’s finances has provided additional recommendations that reinforce Council’s proactive approach to addressing its financial and organisational challenges.
The review, in the form of a forensic financial assessment, examined Council documents and processes since 2016 including cash and investments, financial reporting and significant Blue Haven contracts, most notably the Blue Haven Bonaira construction project.
Mayor Neil Reilly said the forensic assessment reflects Council’s commitment to leave no stone unturned in relation to the organisation’s current situation.
“The review has given us a deeper understanding of the issues already raised and reported to the community, reaffirming that our approach – through the recently-adopted Strategic Improvement Plan – is focused on the right areas,” he said.
“It also sets out additional recommendations to ensure Council addresses the issues of highest urgency and rolls out a series of long-term actions to reduce future risks and set the organisation on a solid path to financial stability.”
CEO Jane Stroud said Council chose to engage external experts to carry out the assessment, so that all issues could be addressed.
“I’m confident that we are taking every necessary step to set our finances right and transform our organisational culture and the report notes we are on the right track,” she said.
“Many actions are already underway, and the forensic assessment has provided more information and recommendations to ensure we cover all areas to meet financial requirements and create a sustainable future for the organisation.”
Issues identified in the review include:
- An urgent need for Council to improve its cash reserves in the short and medium term
- Questions about the reliability of financial reporting over the last five years
- Deficiencies in Council’s project management processes, especially in relation to Blue Haven Bonaira
With many of the issues going back a number of years, Ms Stroud said it was understandable that people would look for someone to blame – but it is not the role of the current Council to either defend or condemn past decisions or speculate about individuals who were involved.
“Our history as a Local Government is a long and proud one. Many good staff, Councillors and volunteers have worked for us over the years, and much great work continues to be done every day, no one is taking away from that,” said Ms Stroud.
“Forensics are about the past, and hindsight. Council’s job now is to take the data we’ve gathered – both through ongoing internal investigations and the external review – and turn it into positive strategies and actions that set us firmly on the path to sustainability – and that’s exactly what is happening and what I am focused on, the future.”
“Council have been working closely with the Office of Local Government, Audit Office and our Audit Risk and Improvement Committee and will continue to do so,” Ms Stroud said.
Councillor Reilly said that, armed with the information from the review, Council will double down on its efforts to restore community confidence in the organisation’s systems and processes.
“While there is considerable work to be done, Councillors and Council staff are committed to a united approach as we implement the Strategic Improvement Plan and continue to take strong and decisive action to ensure Kiama Council has a sustainable future,” he said.
“Throughout all this, I want to thank and commend our Council staff and volunteers for continuing to get on with the normal, day-to-day responsibilities that make up the majority of what our organisation does – the waste collection, repair and maintenance of our roads and outdoor spaces, keeping our facilities open and running smoothly, hosting world-class events and facilitating wonderful visitor experiences, caring for our residents and clients at Blue Haven and providing services for and assisting the community in myriad ways,” Cr Reilly said.
Council will hold a confidential Extraordinary Meeting next Thursday 12 May to receive the forensic assessment report and consider some critical business decisions.