Moira Council calls in auditor again

MOIRA Council has appointed the same probity auditor which uncovered a $17 million black hole in the late 1990s to apply the blowtorch to its operations again.

Albury-based Rob Salisbury & Associates will conduct the independent probe after being selected from three other options by the council at a confidential meeting last week.

The audit will focus on the “fiscal and operational aspects” of the council, with its findings and recommendations due to be tabled on April 30.

Three years after the creation of the council in 1994 following the merger of Cobram, Numurkah, Nathalia and parts of the Yarrawonga and Tungamah councils, it was found to be shackled by massive debt.

The appointment of the latest probity audit came at the height of a turbulent period late last year which included the axing of chief executive officer Gary Arnold and the departure of other senior staff members, Paul Squires and Adrian Pawar.

Initial rumblings became evident when a proposed 6 per cent rate rise was overturned by a new-look council, which also exercised the option of advertising Mr Arnold’s position.

Moira Mayor Peter Mansfield said the probity auditor’s findings and recommendations should coincide with a replacement chief executive officer in place.

“The council has four new councillors and two others who weren’t elected at the previous elections,” he said.

“They just want a full report by a probity auditor to see how we are travelling.

“It will be a broad range of areas where the probity auditor will investigate to see where improvements can be made.

“The new CEO will be able to act on the recommendations if he or she so wishes.”

Mr Pawar had proposed tough measures, including job and spending cuts, in his role of chief financial officer before quitting after only six months.

Peter Bertolis is acting Moira chief executive.

Cr Mansfield said the probity audit outcomes would be a defining moment for the council.

“As councillors we want to get a better handle on how things are running and should be running,” he said.

“Some councillors have different concerns about different aspects of the operation.

“We wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t think it would be of benefit to the shire.”

Moira has allocated $60,000 for the audit.

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