Audit disclaimers caused by software difficulties
LAST month I reported on the Shire’s inability to meet State financial reporting requirements or finalise its audits as regulated under WA local government law for the 2020/2021 financial year.
I also mentioned it was unlikely the Shire would be able to meet the 2021/2022 audit and State Office of the Auditor General deadline, thus causing both audits to be issued with a Disclaimer Opinion.
This follows difficulties arising from a decision by a previous Council more than four years ago to change from one Shire software reporting system (SynergySoft) to another (Datascape).
Inability to meet regulatory requirements is a serious matter.
All parties are aware of the urgency to undetake action to resolve this.Read more
The WA Auditor General’s office raised concerns when it was unable to complete satisfactory shire audits.
The agency oversees all WA local government audits and was concerned that it could not verify all the amounts submitted by the shire.
Individual transactions were easy to identify and verify but there were problems with aggregated balances in bulk journals that are used to audit and produce reports.
The matter was referred to the WA Local Government Department to assist and monitor progress.
Our Shire CEO and I met the Department’s Executive Director, Tim Fraser, on August 1.
It was agreed that the shire develop a draft action plan to resolve the remaining difficulties, with timeframes for each milestone to be achieved.
The shire has now submitted a detailed draft Improvement Action Plan for the Department to review.
It will be returned to Council to endorse when accepted.
DATASCAPE was purchased for $169,248 in April 2019 by a previous council and administration.
It cost about $30,000 more to add subsequent program variations and pay for specialist technical support.
Common to similar programs, there is a monthly service fee of $3600 (inc. GST), which is less than what we paid previously for 10 SynergySoft licences.
IN 2022, Council reviewed councillor allowances and the percentage amount they receive within the allowed band determined by the Salaries and Allowances Tribunal.
As a result, Toodyay Councillor allowances were increased from 75 per cent to 85 per cent of the allowed rate.
Allowances for the President and Deputy were increased from 60 per cent to 85 per cent.
The decision to increase the percentage was to reflect the significant amount of extra work that councillors have to undertake in their elected roles.
To offset the additional cost, the number of Toodyay councillors was reduced from nine to seven.
The result is a saving of $13,000 in this year’s shire budget, which was passed last month.
Recreation Centre costs
MOST shires use private contractors to manage the day-to-day running of their recreation centres and swimming pools.
Why? Because private sector award wages and allowances are generally lower than for local government employees.
It enables specialist contractors such as Clublinks – which manages the Toodyay Recreation Centre – to use economies of scale that are generally not available to local government employers.
Recreation centres with few exceptions run at a loss, with local government paying for running and maintenance costs, and an annual management fee to the contractor.
This is what Toodyay does.
The fee is comparable to that paid to other management contractors and is cheaper than paying shire employees to do the same job.
Clublinks presents an annual budget of its anticipated costs and earnings prior to each year’s shire budget.
The Shire is invoiced quarterly for each coming season, with an adjustment made in the final quarter.
Amounts vary, based on forecast deficits for the next quarter.
A shire-run facility would face similar costs but the savings from not paying a contractor would be offset by having to pay shire employees higher wages to undertake the same work.