Moira gagged us, say audit petition group

Former chief financial officer Adrian Pawar is organising a petition calling for an independent probity audit of the council. Picture: FAIFAX

Former chief financial officer Adrian Pawar is organising a petition calling for an independent probity audit of the council. Picture: FAIFAX

MOIRA Council has refused to accept a petition with 1097 signatures calling for the resurrection of an independent probity audit into the shire’s finances and operations.

In a heated question time at the end of the council meeting on Monday night at Numurkah, the petition organisers, including former chief financial officer Adrian Pawar, were denied the chance to hand it to the seven-member council.

It was the council that had previously unanimously agreed to carry out the external audit before being stalled on legal grounds.

The 1097 names were collected across the shire in less than a week.

“It feels like we are in Russia,” Mr Pawar said.

“The president of Moira Shire, which is the chief executive, Mark Henderson, makes the decision.

“We have to live by what he says.

“The very fact they are not wanting this independent probity audit only confirms there are a lot of skeletons in the cupboard that they just don’t want to open up to the public.

“The community feels our hands are shackled, our feet are shackled and mouths have tape across them.

“We are being gagged.”

Other ratepayers, John Shorten, Leanne Pell and Scott Olson, also tried to present the petition.

Mr Henderson yesterday denied the petition had been rejected.

“It was talked about in questions from the public and is expected to be presented to council in a couple of weeks,” he said.

“While we haven’t seen it, we understand it calls for a probity audit and specifies how that audit is to be managed.

“We look forward to reading the detail.

“But it appears to fall outside the audit protocols recommended by Local Government Victoria and would be difficult to implement as apparently no council staff are to be involved in the audit process.

“It’s unclear how an auditor would be engaged on those terms and how they could audit a $50 million council without some staff involvement.”

More names are being added to the petition.

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