Consultant reports on more than 4,000 Council expense accounts

In August 2020, Central Coast Council had more than 4,000 expense accounts, according to a consultant’s report released in June 2021.

There were expenses such as materials, contracts, consultants, electricity, fuel, advertising and so on.

The consultants explained that there were more than 5,000 account lines when viewing the financial reports at unit level, with more than 4,000 of these being expense accounts.

Of the expense accounts, about one-third reported an increase when comparing the 11 months to May 2020 with the 2018/19 full-year expenses.

About 730 expense accounts had an annual expense of less than $1,000 in 2018/19.

These accounts totalled $238,000 in 2018/19 and in the 11 months to May 2020, the same accounts increased to a total of $1.3M.

Of the expense accounts with a total of less than $1,000, about 460 accounts had no change or reduced by a total of $159,000.

However, the remainder of expense accounts increased by a total of $1.3M, negating any benefits achieved elsewhere.

About 460 expense accounts increased by less than $1,000 in the 11 months to May 2020 which had the impact of increasing total costs by $138,000.

About 120 expense accounts increased between $1,000 and $2,000 in the 11 months to May 2020, with the increase totalling $173,000.

About 900 expense accounts increased by less than $10,000 in the 11 months to May 2020, with the increase totalling $1.8M.

The draft report from August last year which reviewed Council’s financial capacity has recently been released as part of Council’s response to the Public Inquiry into its financial situation.

The consultants said the figures highlighted the importance of monitoring all accounts, not just the larger material accounts.

“There is the opportunity to maintain or reduce costs at all levels which will have a significant cumulative impact and be relatively easy to implement change,” the report said.

“Often the small changes are easy to implement yet yield rewards and financial discipline can assist in reducing costs without materially impacting services.”

The report was commissioned in April 2020 to look at the possible impact on Council from the economic downturn due to the pandemic.

The report highlighted cash flow issues and flagged what it thought was about $60M in internal restricted funds being used for operational matters which is against the Local Government Act.

That report set the ball rolling for another review that eventually uncovered more than $200M of restricted funds being wrongfully used for operational purposes.

That review, by DMB Consulting, is not one of the reports that has been released.

The councillors were suspended in October 2020 when the extent of the financial debt was uncovered.

Earlier in 2021, the suspension was continued and a Public Inquiry started.

Meanwhile, an Administrator has taken the place of the councillors and the Central Coast will not be participating in the local government elections in September this year.

Merilyn Vale