Thursday, June 2, 2022


  • "The report shows that twenty-one high risk matters related to asset management, 14 related to IT and seven related to financial reporting.
    The remainder were around governance, accounting, purchasing and payables, and cash and banking." https://www.governmentnews.com.au/local-government-audit.../
     

    Fast facts

    • 150 councils and joint organisations in the sector
    • 99% unqualified audit opinions issued for the 30 June 2020 financial statements
    • 490 monetary misstatements were reported in 2019-20
    • 61 prior period errors reported
    • 53 high risk management letters findings identified
    • 49% of reported issues were repeat issues
    • Highlights


    • The Office of Local Government within the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (OLG) extended the statutory deadline for councils and joint organisations to lodge their audited financial statements by an additional month to 30 November 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • One hundred and thirty-three councils and joint organisations (2019: 117) lodged audited financial statements with the OLG by the revised statutory deadline of 30 November (2019: 30 October). Sixteen (2019: 30) councils received extensions to submit audited financial statements to OLG. Canberra Region Joint Organisation did not submit their audited financial statements by the statutory deadline and did not formally apply for extension before the deadline lapsed.
    • Unqualified audit opinions were issued for 127 councils, nine county councils and 13 joint organisation audits in 2019–20. A qualified audit opinion was issued for Central Coast Council.
    • Unqualified audit opinions were issued for the 2018–19 financial audits of Hilltops, MidCoast and Murrumbidgee Councils, which were not completed at the time of tabling the 'Local Government 2019' report in Parliament.
    • The total number and dollar value of corrected and uncorrected financial statement errors increased compared with the prior year.
    • Sixty-eight councils did not record rural fire fighting equipment in their financial statements worth $119 million. The NSW Government has confirmed these assets are not controlled by the NSW Rural Fire Service and are not recognised in the financial records of the NSW Government.
    • The total number of prior period financial statement errors increased from 59 in the prior year to 61, but the total dollar value of the errors decreased from $1,272 million to $813 million.
    • Councils implemented three new accounting standards in 2019–20 relating to revenue and leases.

    Inner West Council(ongoing finding)

    In 2018–19, council did not sufficiently complete a quality review of the asset revaluation process.
    In 2019–20, council was not required to perform a comprehensive revaluation for any asset classes, so council could not address the finding during 2019–20. The finding will remain ongoing until the next revaluation is performed...
    Inner West Council
    Due to the impact of COVID-19, council closed its aquatic centre and
    received less revenue from childcare. It also received less section 94 fees,
    parking fines and other fees. User fees and charges were $32.7 million
    compared to the budget of $46.0 million. However, this was partially offset
    by grants for childcare from the government. Council’s operating grants and
    contributions were $17.0 million compared to a budget of $10.6 million. ..

    https://www.audit.nsw.gov.au/our-work/reports/report-on-local-government-2020

     
    Councils have budgets in the millions and councillors rely on officers - the real challenge is that OLG needs to step up and provide support for the officers and ultimately councillors. 
     
    OLG says it is a big body of work to get better reporting and LGNSW Special Conference 2022 78 Business Paper (Nov 21) pg 79: 

    "X4 Byron Shire Council Template governance tools

     
    That Local Government NSW advocates to the NSW Government that it works with councils and funds the development of template governance tools to enhance transparency and performance reporting including:
    a) A dashboard summary reporting tool tracking progress against objectives as set out in key planning documents - community strategic plan, financial plan and budget, residential land use and other strategies etc; and
    b) A consolidated State Government relationship reporting tool tracking all ‘live’ issues and projects between an LGA and State Government across all portfolio areas including grant applications, policy / project proposals, state government- initiated projects etc.
     
    Note from Council
     
    Council websites include an abundance of plans, reports, and data, which are invaluable for councillors, staff, consultants and other stakeholders. For most residents and rate payers the information provided on performance and progress against objectives could be collated and summarised. The core business of councils is common and a template could provide useful summary data against objectives (targets) on revenue and surpluses, housing approvals, financial ratios, road works, sewerage and water, visitor numbers etc.
    The reporting tool would complement existing reports to residents and ratepayers on how rates are spent with a snapshot of how council spends money and performs at a macro level.
     
    The relationship between councils and state government is fundamental to local government. Reporting on that relationship tends to be project based or piecemeal. Local government is a statutory creation of state
    government and can be seen as an extension of it. Residents and rate payers are aware of the interaction between state and local government but perhaps not its full depth or significance. Projects, funding decisions
    and changes to law or policy tend to be reported ‘one-off’. Most residents and rate payers would benefit from receiving an integrated picture of the relationship between their local council and state government.

    The use of a consolidated reporting tool can also assist decision makers in adopting a more holistic approach to decision-making seeing the ‘cross-portfolio’ connections between issues, for example housing, transport and
    tourism.
     
    Note from LGNSW
     
    This motion is operational and LGNSW will seek the NSW Government's support to develop these tools. The Office of Local Government's Your Council website (yourcouncil.nsw.gov.au) already provides key data on
    councils’ demographic, socio-economic, financial sustainability, infrastructure, expenditure, rating, community leadership and core council services. This website could be further expanded to meet this motion's objectives." 
     

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