Ministers, Fizzle Not Sizzle

 

Straight up, how lame can a Minister be?

You sort of see why amalgamation flopped in WA, just check out the response he gave to serious concerns by multiple levels of the Fremantle’s rate payers and residents.

First the questions asked by Peter Tinley on behave of the electors of Fremantle, followed by the Ministers for Local Government response.

Question from Tinley to Minister for Local Government

(1) Is the Minister aware of community concerns over how the City of Fremantle has represented the financial implications of their $45 million investment of ratepayer funds in its Kings Square Business Plan, and if so, what action has the Minister taken to address these concerns?
(2) Has the Minister directed the City of Fremantle to answer legitimate ratepayer questions concerning the Kings Square Business Plan, and if not, why not?
(3) Has the Minister conducted a full and proper investigation into the questions raised with regard to the Kings Square Business Plan:
(a) if so, what were the findings; and
(b) if not, why not?
(4) Is the Minister satisfied that the Kings Square Business Plan:
(a) accurately represents the financial implications that the $45 million project will have on the City of Fremantle’s asset base; and
(b) correctly represents the rate of return and net present value derived from this investment of ratepayer funds?
(5) Is the Minister satisfied that the Kings Square Business Plan contains sufficient detail for ratepayers and Councillors to properly understand whether this project increases or decreases the asset base of the City of Fremantle, and if so, for what reason?

Answered on 5 May 2015 By Minister for Local Government

(1) Yes, I have received correspondence from the Fremantle Residents and Ratepayers Association on this matter.
(2) No, theLocal Government Act 1995confers limited powers and authority for me to intervene or direct a local government in the performance of functions it is legally entitled and empowered to undertake.
(3) No
(a) Not applicable
(b) See answer to question 2 above
(4)(a)-(b) My Department of Local Government and Communities has not undertaken any analysis of the financial assumptions in the plan.
(5) The principal consideration for me, as Minister for Local Government, is whether the City has acted contrary to the Local Government Act 1995in its handling of the matter. The materials that have been forwarded to me do not demonstrate that the City has acted unlawfully or in a manner that is contrary to the Act.

My comments on minister responses

  1. The Minister has no comments on FRRA concerns or questions and it seems he has no interest in taking any action, not even having a look, seems too much to ask, to look into FFRA concern of $45 million dollars of ratepayers assets and/or funds, why is he not interested in FRRA concerns, why would he not seek the truth?
  2. A simple no, FRRA was not asking the minister, to stop the project or change it, just to have the City of Fremantle to answer simple questions that had been asked, pretty simple right? So a minister, who’s fiduciary duty is to oversee the portfolio of Local Government, it appears that simple questions are beyond the ability or scope of said Minister, imagine being a minister of a department that doesn’t have ability to ask questions of what it overseas? Classic? Bad enough a council ignores ratepayers questions now a minister who’s not even able to ask why they didn’t answer the questions asked?
  3. No, amazing a $30,000,000.00 question, the minister is not even interested in looking at the issue, just recently it was reported that “A spokeswoman for Mr Simpson said the proposal to extend the Auditor-General’s role to local government had merit and he would recommend it to the Government.”

So in one breath the minister wants the AG to have oversight for local government, in the next he is not even interested in looking at $30,000,000.00, questions raised to his office in regards to a business plan made by the COF, maybe if it’s the AG doing the heavy lifting its ok but  not but such a great idea when the ministers got to carry the load?

  1. No again, why would the minister’s office not have done any analysis on this issue especially when the question were laid out on a plate for them? Are they worried about what they will find, if everything was hunky dory, why not look and say nothing to see here folks? Now if he doesn’t even want to look that sounds pretty worrying, doesn’t it, are they worried what they will find? Is this a Pandora’s Box?
  2. Well it seems the minister is taking a leaf out the city of Fremantle’s book here and answered a question that was not asked, read the question, then his answer, seriously, I expect spin or distraction from COF but now the minister too?

Side bar I note that the minister and the City of Fremantle had their responses go public on the same day, must be a coincidence, right?

 

Fremantle City’s D Day

Today in parliament the minister for local government Tony Simpson is due to answer the questions on the COF Kings Sq Business Plan he was asked in parliament last March by Peter Tinley the member for Willagee.

What’s more important is the residents and rate payers of Fremantle and come to think of it all of Western Australia will find out if the Minister for Local Government stands for good governance, accountability, transparency, true representation, responsible financial due diligence, for the residents and ratepayers, or will he allow the city of Fremantle to continue on its course of hiding behind confidential meetings, hidden documents and secret reports.

The residents and rate payers of Fremantle have asked simple questions of the city of Fremantle over the last 7 months + and over this time have received no answers, to not even one question.

What is it that the city has to hide, why the secrecy? Where will they try to spin this story too next?

Why is it after 7 months of ratepayers question there are no answers but we see in the media, quotes of answers next week? How is this possible, I wonder if the city has engaged professional help in answering these questions, if so at what cost? As it seems there Media or PR staff are busy with some  attempts at distraction over the last few weeks?

Why would the minister not assist the residents in their questions to find the truth?

If not the minister for local government who do residents go to when being stone walled by their council? Why do we need a minister for local government if he is not able to even assist in a simple but basic issue like getting reasonable questions asked?

If real answers do not come in due course the minister and council would be naive, to think these questions will go away.

Today we get to see what good governance means to the minister

 

Question On Notice No. 3834 asked in the Legislative Assembly on 25 March 2015 by Mr P.C. Tinley

Question Directed to the: Minister for Local Government
Question Directed to: Hon A.J. Simpson
Minister responding: Hon A.J. Simpson
Parliament: 39 Session: 1

Question

(1) Is the Minister aware of community concerns over how the City of Fremantle has represented the financial implications of their $45 million investment of ratepayer funds in its Kings Square Business Plan, and if so, what action has the Minister taken to address these concerns?
(2) Has the Minister directed the City of Fremantle to answer legitimate ratepayer questions concerning the Kings Square Business Plan, and if not, why not?
(3) Has the Minister conducted a full and proper investigation into the questions raised with regard to the Kings Square Business Plan:
(a) if so, what were the findings; and
(b) if not, why not?
(4) Is the Minister satisfied that the Kings Square Business Plan:
(a) accurately represents the financial implications that the $45 million project will have on the City of Fremantle’s asset base; and
(b) correctly represents the rate of return and net present value derived from this investment of ratepayer funds?
(5) Is the Minister satisfied that the Kings Square Business Plan contains sufficient detail for ratepayers and Councillors to properly understand whether this project increases or decreases the asset base of the City of Fremantle, and if so, for what reason?

Great Community Meeting Tuesday Evening

leaders wanted

Thanks very much for the great turnout for last night’s meeting. It was great to see such a diverse attendance, we had representative’s from 4 precincts which was really great. I appreciate everyone’s efforts on such short notice

Thanks to everyone who came your interest, questions and participation was encouraging.

Thanks to Martin and Craig for the presentation it was very enlightening, plus the Q and A was really informative, everyone loved the detailed info, which has made this issue easier to understand for all who attended. For everyone who filled out the attendance sheet the presentation will be emailed out for your info for you to pass out to friend’s neighbours, family and anyone who’s interested.

Shortly I will organize a system to post the whole presentation here on the site, so it’s easy to pass onto friends, then people can ask questions as well, keeping in mind that know we don’t have access to some of the very important information as this is being kept confidential from us the rate payers and residents.

We will be working to set up more of this community based meetings or workshops to help people understand the concerns surrounding this issue.

Also finally thanks to the press that came last night, it was great considering especially the short notice you were given.

 

Good governance: transparency, accountability, consultation and responsible Council management of assets and rates.

image governamce wall

Fremantle’s Mayors, Vague Response to Online Questions

We see online Brad’s vague comments to the month’s old, outstanding questions raised by Mr Lee in October last year.

I won’t try to paraphrase his comment so here it is in full.

“Roel
As I understand it the contested area is the assumptions that were used to reach the outcome we did including a general rates uplift, 20 year timeframe, discounted rate of 5.5% and the value of enhanced Fremantle Council owned assets. If you assume the above then it is clear to see how we reached the stated rate of return and NPV. All of these assumptions were published in the business plan and could have been contested during the advertising period. Council, on the advice of City of Fremantle staff and independent experts was comfortable these assumptions were well justified.
Glen is on leave this week and he may want to provide a more technical response on his return.
The Minister for Local Government is now looking at this as well and assuming that after his review he also is comfortable with the business plan then that should give the Fremantle community further confidence that the Fremantle Council has got this right.
I think the scrutiny of this project is a good thing (despite it being rather delayed) given the size of the investment the Fremantle Council is looking to undertake but it probably doesn’t need to be done in a way that doesn’t start with the untrue assumption that the Fremantle Council isn’t been straight and trying to hide something. We have nothing to hide and our proud of the potential of this project for Freo. In my view the biggest challenge for Kings Sq is when will it get to start!
Cheers, Brad”

So what answers have we got from this;

  • A couple of lines recapping the business plan with lots of assumptions
  • Glens on holidays
  • The minister for LG is looking into it, sort of has too after questions in parliament where raised? But other than seeing the city has a business plan and tick the box yes Minister it’s here, I doubt from past experience they will be looking too deep?
  • Brad now thinks scrutiny is a good thing and they have nothing to hide. Well with everything out in the open now what choice do they have?
  • Also from a days old blog post, brad dropped Roel a link to the council website with the answers to nothing that was actually asked, this one is starting to sound like a Monty Python sketch, Nudge nudge, wink wink…….

So what do we make of this or what further questions can we ask from this?

  • The business plan we have, not the info/detail/reports, documents, minutes, attachments behind it, which is what Mr Lee was asking for, why is it hidden?
  • Happy Holidays Glen I’m sure he’s glad he’s on holidays right now
  • Well we know that the minister is looking at this issue, will he actually answer Mr Lees questions, what he needs to do is just instruct council to properly answer the questions before them from Mr Lee, if no one wants to do this, then the natural questions is WHY, what’s to hid???????
  • If the COF is so happy to answer the questions they get and think scrutiny is a good thing when why didn’t they just answer Mr Lee’s first round of questions; they are making one statement but their actions so far, tell another story.
  • Why did council drag this out, going on 7 months now, still not close to being resolved?
  • How much money is being spent on consultants and lawyers for the city to decide how they communicate with its residents?
  • Where does the Councils 1st obligation lie, to their residents and ratepayers (the electors) or private business?

 

Why has the council forced the residents to take this issue to the ministers for LG Office, Local MLA’s,,,,,?

  1. Have questions asked in Parliament?
  2. Raise questions to the press, writing thinking allowed pieces, comments pieces?
  3. Whole dialogues online in blogs etc?
  4. Why did they use the local paper to chastise or belittle a resident asking questions when they tell us they are happy to have been asked, so which was it defensive or inviting? Perhaps more offensive?
  5. Let’s not forget the request that council was talking up for a $3million investment in Match before council had even met to discuss the issue, then it dropped suddenly as the public asks questions and the same day the questions on COF hit parliament.

After all of this now we should believe that they want to have an open discussion, that they like scrutiny on this issues, I wonder what Mr Lees opinion on this would be 7 months after he wrote an email to council asking a couple of simple questions on their business plan.

Yes how could anyone possibly come to the assumption that the Fremantle Council isn’t been straight with its electors and trying to hide something?

Perhaps the Minster for Local Government needs to read his own quote in a press release on the 26/02/2015 “The Minister described the Commission’s report as a “wake-up call”.

This said perhaps Minister you should just follow the recommendation the commission gave recommending “that the jurisdiction of the Auditor General be extended to specifically include local government, thus bringing Western Australia into line with Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria.  The proposed change echoes previous recommendations made by the Public Accounts Committee in 2006.”

Fremantle’s Kings Sq, Questions But No Answers, Just SPIN, SPIn, SPin,Spin

spin top

Last week we saw a resident bring months of questions to the Fremantle City Council and their failure to answer even one, brought out into the public arena.

A week later the Herald has dug into not just Kings Sq issue but COF financial forward projections, (See article SAMSON REC TO PAY FOR NEW HQ) raising even more questions on the finances behind these issue’s, it’s important to remember why the city may not be paying for something if they lose revenue streams due to the transfer/sale/loss of the fund raising asset the loss of revenue must be replaced somehow? could that be in rate increases or more cuts to services?

Some of the documents that were used to the make or build the business finances are kept confidential and have not been released to the public, despite many attempts by different individuals and groups?

Several years ago the Fremantle Society asked similar question that Mr Lee raised, so years later the COF still has still not answered these questions. The question has to be why will they not have an open transparent discussion on this issue, do they have something to hide? Why will they not release years old council minutes and attachments for public access? Why the secrecy? What’s, doing on? What don’t they want us to know?

Do they think it’s too boring for us to read, or is that we are too stupid to understand this business plan? Or is there something else behind it?

MR Lee has not questioned the fact Freo needs to develop areas like Kings Sq, he supports it. His question lay more in the realm of the documents that the COF has used to build this plans finances and the secret documents they hide from public view?

Sadly the Fremantle Council has launch an attack on Mr Lee for asking, simple questions. Is this sort of attack designed to discourage others from questioning COF decisions? Is it designed to distract or shift attention from the real questions Mr Lee asked? Is this what we expect from a body elected to represent our interests? I wonder how this looks in the light of the code of conduct the city has, which is supposed to guild its elected members in their conduct or behaviour

Here is a short extract from the city’s Code of Conduct and a Link so anyone interested can read the whole document.

PART 1

General Provisions

Scope

  1. An elected member or committee member must observe the Code of Conduct whenever he or she conducts the business of the Local Government.
  1. Where an elected member or committee member acts as a representative of the Local Government or on any other body, he or she must comply with the Code of Conduct or any relevant law.

General Obligations

  1. An elected member or committee member must –
  • act with honesty and integrity;

  • treat others with respect, fairness and equality;

  • undertake their role with reasonable care and due diligence;

  • be open and accountable to the public for their actions and the manner in which they carry out their responsibilities;

  • take account of the views of others in decision making;

  • not do anything which compromises or which is likely to compromise the impartiality of those who work for or on behalf of the Local Government;

  • uphold the law and, on all occasions, act in accordance with the trust the public is entitled to place in them;

  • conduct themselves in a manner that maintains the reputation of their office and Local Government;

 

FREMANTLE’S Mayor BRAD PETTITT and council CEO GRAEME MACKENZIE co-authors, had a great opportunity to put the whole issue to bed, the Herald to their credit allowed the city a platform to answer Mr Lee’s questions, explain the detail behind the business plan and satisfy peoples concern/interest with an intelligent answer. Instead it seems they choose to use childish bully boy style tactics and denigrating style slurs, something I wouldn’t except from my 8yr old.

What will we see unearthed in the weeks to come? If the Kings Sq project becomes a financial burden to the City how will it be funded? Are rate payers prepared to pay higher rates, so the Mayors dream can happen? How much will his vision cost the average rate payer, what will the average rate payer get from seeing the Mayors dream completed?

Seems there is lots of questions but few answers. Fremantle already has high rates and some of the biggest increases last year, what can we expect to see in rate increase over the next couple of years? Apart from diminishing amenity and services what can we hope to gain from higher rates? What’s in it for us? Is anyone actually looking out for our best interests?

This issue has been taken to the minster for LG already, the response did not deal with the issues raised, so now we see a concern MP raise these issues again in parliament. Where will it go next, perhaps with the lack of answers to legitimate questions it could be time for the auditor general to look into the issue to ensure rate payer’s best interests are being addressed?

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