Accuracy, context questioned
CONCERNS about the contextual and factual accuracy of the Auditor-General’s report have been raised by Loddon Mayor Dan Straub.
In a formal response to the report, Cr Straub said: “As a small rural council we rely heavily on the volunteer effort of our community groups and to support this, Loddon Shire Council has various community support programs.
“We have recently engaged with our volunteers as part of a volunteerism strategy with the overwhelming response from volunteers being that there is too much bureaucracy.
“We therefore need (to) find a balance between the recommendations of this audit alongside the willingness and capacity of our volunteers.
“Our community support policy is currently being drafted and there are around 15 different programs identified in that policy ranging from financial support, non-financial support, competitive programs and ‘as of right’ programs determined through the annual budget process and supporting policy.”
Cr Straub’s response said that in 2019 council began implementing the Smarty-Grants program for grant management.
“Acknowledging this implementation was still in progress during the audit period, we have continued, and will continue, to build on the capability of the program.
“This continuous improvement initiative will be complemented by the recommendations from the audit report, to improve our grants management process.”
Council told the Auditor-General it had an acquittal process for all competitive grants but “as of right” grants were not subject to the same requirements.
The Auditor-General recommended that recurring grants only be extended through competitive funding applications. However, council said it would conduct a cost-benefit analysis of those grants.
Cr Straub said council’s ward-based community planning program had delivered significant community-led projects since it was introduced in 2003-2004.
He said the ward program had “not been challenged by our community to date”.
Council had agreed its fraud risk register will be reviewed and grant-related risk items identified and analysed through the risk management committee.
The Auditor-General was told council had a mandatory fraud and corruption control training program for councillors and staff which was required to be undertaken every two years.
The report said: “We made nine recommendations to all Victorian councils about strengthening their fraud controls and improving their guidance and training for grant-related fraud. We also made one recommendation to Loddon Shire Council about reviewing its community planning grant process.”
READ MORE ABOUT THE AUDITOR-GENERAL'S REPORRT ON THE LATEST LODDON HERALD