Gympie Mayor Mick Curran says the perception council is wasting money on projects like the aquatic centre was at odds with reality.
Gympie Mayor Mick Curran says the perception council is wasting money on projects like the aquatic centre was at odds with reality. Contributed

State audit flags Gympie council's red budget line as a risk

MAYOR Mick Curran has defended Gympie Regional Council's financial security in the wake of the latest state audit flagging concerns over its long-term revenue streams.

In their 2017-18 financial audit of state councils, the Queensland Audit Office said the council was a low risk of becoming financially unsustainable, but its bottom line was a concern.

The QAO found the council's average ratio across the past five years was -0.12 per cent, below the recommended level of 0-10 per cent.

It is the third audit running the council's average had dropped, and the report comes only days after the council announced this year's operational budget will run in the red.

By slipping under that line, the council had "a risk of long-term reduction in cash reserves and inability to fund asset renewals".

Cr Curran said the mark was only missed by a fraction and operating revenue would be back in surplus "over the next couple of years".

 

Mayor Mick Curran. Photo Renee Albrecht/Gympie Times
Mayor Mick Curran. Renee Albrecht

And it would not come at the cost of a big rate rise.

"We're on a journey of being as efficient as we possibly can as an organisation," Cr Curran said.

"Over the past five years we've found savings right across the organisation.

"It's great for that perception to be out there in the community of 'waste, waste, waste', but the actual reality is we now have directors and managers who are in charge of their budgets.

"That hadn't happened previously.

"They have to manage and control the expenditure.

"People working in the higher levels of Gympie Regional Council have a lot greater responsibility over the expenditure that goes on.

 

Gympie five ways  town hall
Town Hall.

"If they overspend their allocated budget they will be called to task."

He said the council's results were "excellent" in other categories and cautioned against basing an opinion on only one piece of the audit.

"When you look at some of these other areas, we're performing very well," he said.

The council's bottom line was not the only flag raised by the audit office.

Their end of year financial process was "ineffective" (less than three of five key processes finished by an agreed date), and the draft report quality as "below average" (material adjustments to financial statement controls).

It is a drop from three years ago when the council was given green lights across the board.

A council spokeswoman said the end of year process was delayed by a "comprehensive revaluation of its assets during 2017-18".

 

Gympie Aquatic centre almost ready for opening.
An increase in the council's asset depreciation has contributed to next year's budget running at an operational deficit. Renee Albrecht

"The valuation process was delayed beyond the originally scheduled timeframe, which impacted on other year-end procedures.

"This was highly complex and required further time to address," she said.

The quality issue was due to "a small number of adjustments which were required to be made between the draft financial statements (in August 2018) and the final statements (in October 2018).

"Some of these issues were historic, requiring further investigation and consensus on the appropriate accounting treatment with the auditor," she said.

The audit office's opinion on the council-controlled Rattler Railway Company was "not complete".

 

The Mary Valley Rattler has made its first return run to Amamoor with a steam engine.
The Mary Valley Rattler. LEEROY TODD

A QAO spokeswoman said their audit work had not been finished by the time the report was tabled in State Parliament.

The Rattler's 2018 annual information statement and financial report have not yet been lodged with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission.

They were due more than a month ago.

RRC general manager David Thompson said last month the delay was being looked into.