Moira audit or else, say petitioners

Former Moira Shire chief financial officer Adrian Pawar and his son Jake Pawar, 10, lead a group of about 25 protesters. Picture: COBRAM COURIER

Former Moira Shire chief financial officer Adrian Pawar and his son Jake Pawar, 10, lead a group of about 25 protesters. Picture: COBRAM COURIER

MOIRA residents have vowed to step up their action against the shire council if it fails to take their calls for an independent probity audit seriously.

About 15 protesters, led by the council’s former chief financial officer Adrian Pawar, yesterday hand-delivered a 1097-signature petition to its Cobram headquarters.

Councillors had initially refused to accept the petition when it was first presented at last month’s council meeting.

Yesterday, after a silent protest march through the town, the residents were met outside the offices by mayor Peter Mansfield, deputy mayor Wendy Buck, and councillors Don McPhee and Brian Keenan.

Cr Mansfield accepted the document, which demands an independent audit of the council’s finances and operations.

Mr Pawar fears Cr Mansfield’s acceptance of the petition was simply a “publicity stunt” designed to make the public think they intended to act.

The council had committed $60,000 to Rob Salisbury & Associates to carry out a wide-ranging probe earlier this year but that stalled on legal grounds.

“He told me afterwards that they would bring it up at the next council meeting (on July 21) but that it may be months before anything would be done,” Mr Pawar said.

“It’s farcical ... before we know it it will be the end of the year and then they’ll be busy with the next budget.”

Mr Pawar vowed residents would stage a fully-fledged protest march if an audit did not get under way.

Neither Cr Mansfield nor the council’s chief executive officer Mark Henderson responded to calls from The Border Mail yesterday.

A council spokesperson said the petition would be tabled at the next meeting.

The ongoing saga at Moira began last year when Mr Pawar blew the whistle on what he described as the council’s “toxic culture” and sought ministerial intervention.

Mr Pawar was chief financial officer for six months before resigning.

Last month a leaked internal report revealed 42 possible breaches by the council under the Local Government Act.

The independent audit, which councillors had unanimously agreed to in February, was stalled because the council had not called for tenders before awarding the contract, which is also against the act.

Mr Pawar said it “beggars belief” that, with at least 42 other potential breaches to investigate, only the one relating to the audit was being focused on.

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