Action against former Gosford Council staff not ruled out

Central Coast Council has not ruled out the possibility that its current or former staff may be investigated by “external agencies” over Gosford Council’s finances.
A flyer labelled “fact sheet” has been distributed to employees listing “frequently asked questions” to explain the status of investigations into Gosford Council’s finances.
However, beyond commenting that the Council had referred “certain matters to external agencies”, it stated that “it is not appropriate for Council to make further comment”.
It stated Council “cannot comment” on whether ICAC had investigated the matters relating to Gosford’s record keeping.
It also avoided stating whether any former or current staff were expected to be investigated: “The matter was referred to external agencies and any actions are a matter for those agencies.
“No staff are under any Central Coast Council action with respect to this matter.”
The flyer claimed “various statutes impose obligations to refer certain matters to external agencies”.
“Council has met its obligations under those statutes.”
According to the flyer, “the independent auditors have each given disclaimer of opinion in regard to the accounts of the former Gosford Council for the period July 1, 2015, to May 12, 2016, as there is insufficient appropriate audit evidence to provide a basis for an opinion”.
“During preparation for the audit, Central Coast Council identified significant control issues where additions, deletions and changes to transactions could be made without leaving an audit trail.
“For this reason, Central Coast Council was not able to provide either of the auditors with an unqualified statement on completeness and accuracy of transactions as required under the relevant Acts and auditing standards.
“Assurance testing over this period was not possible and so the auditing standard prescribes a disclaimer of opinion,” the flyer to Council employees said.
Employees were told the main issues identified included the accurate identification and valuation of infrastructure assets, and weaknesses in internal controls.
“It is rare for a Council to get a disclaimed audit report,” the flyer said.
“However the internal control issues have been rectified and all prior year errors corrected.
“There is a plan in place to validate all transactions of the merged Central Coast Council for this financial year.
“Council is working to ensure it is able to provide assurance to secure a ‘clean’ audit report from the independent auditors for the current financial year.”
In response to the question “Did I pay more water rates because of the over counting of Council assets?”, the flyer answered: “No, when the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) determines water supply authority sewerage and drainage prices for water supply authorities (which include the former Gosford Council) it uses a theoretical asset value (known as the regulated asset base) and did not use the former Gosford Council’s assets values in their calculations.
“So, the inaccuracies in the former Gosford Council’s asset count did not affect water pricing for residents.
“Currently, water, sewerage and drainage prices are frozen at 2016 levels and will remain at these levels until the next IPART pricing determination.
“The asset valuation issues do not impact Council’s capacity to deliver services to the community.
“It has the money in the bank to deliver the services our community need, want and value.”
The flyer also posed the question “Why do we have an operating surplus?”
“These accounts related to the former Gosford Council.
“In simple terms there was more revenue than costs.
“It means the Central Coast Council inherited an operating surplus from both former Councils.
“This surplus will be used to fund a record $207.5 million capital works program next financial year and we will continue to deliver $551 million in essential services to the community.”

Flyer, 8 Jun 2017
Rob Noble, Central Coast Council