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Embarrassing 'Minty' Moment!

It is always embarrassing when highly paid Council staff make a 'stuff-up' - particularly in the finance area. 

In spite of their best efforts our Council finance staff are as capable as any other, but somehow, 'egg on face' appears more pronounced when an organisation has a group of people who at all times appear to place themselves beyond reproach, and more than somewhat complacent.

On this occasion it is a $225,000 'stuff-up' brought about by failure to account for GST on volumetric water rates in the 2015/16 estimates as part of the 2015-25 LTP.

It is interesting that the paper to Council on Wednesday on the matter comes from Hammond rather than CFO Baker, and it was regarded as sufficiently serious to seek a legal opinion from Simpson Grierson. That august law firm suggested that it was quite okay for Council to rely on Section 13 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1999. The advice was provided with the proviso that this Section was appropriate when "there was a relatively minor error in respect of just one aspect of the resolution." (In this case, that which adopted the LTP)

Whether $225,000 constitutes a "minor" error in this case is open to interpretation, but in the circumstances, it is probably appropriate to rely on this solution in order to avoid the convoluted process involved in otherwise correcting the matter 'legally' before the next assessment is made. Simpson Grierson recommended that the normal resolution 'correction' process be followed under Model Standing Orders.

All very well, but I don't think it will be lost on anyone that it is open to any malevolent and litigious ratepayer to seek a Judicial Review of this process at considerable cost to Council. For one thing, it would be impossible to achieve an outcome should such an action commence before October when the 2015-16 Financial Year Water Assessment is due to commence. 

I don't think for one moment that this jeopardy will have escaped the notice of senior staff, and constitute a timely reminder of the consequences of inaccuracy in the compilation of the LTP. The story of a major GST 'stuff-up' was 'out there' last month, but I avoided following it up - the staff concerned would have been sufficiently chagrined I imagine. 




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