Moira chief sought advice

Local Government Victoria executive director Nick Foa.
Local Government Victoria executive director Nick Foa.

MOIRA Council acting chief executive Peter Bertolus says he wasn’t prepared to risk personal legal fallout from a decision to instigate a bungled probity audit request.

He said yesterday he had been left with no option but to seek independent legal advice as the only person allowed to sign a contract on behalf of the council.

Last month the council decided to call for tenders to carry out an external probe of its “fiscal and operations” functions in the latest move in a process which began last September.

But subsequent advice from Russell Kennedy Lawyers has highlighted shortcomings in the council’s procurement process in selecting the probity auditor.

Mr Bertolus said advice had also been sought from the local government department.

“There is no doubt the probity audit has fallen over mainly to do with the legal issues surrounding it,” he said.

“The only option I had was to go and get legal advice.

“We (staff) couldn’t care less if there was a probity audit or not and in actual fact it could be of some use with an incoming chief executive.

“But I can’t be asked to break the law.

“From day one we have been seeking to make sure the whole thing is done correctly.

“But the way the council is operating at the moment it is difficult.”

The probity audit short-comings became evident when it was revealed the council failed to call for tenders in accordance with the Local Government Act.

Albury-based firm Rob Salisbury & Associates had been selected to carry out the audit from an initial expressions of interest process and had already started preliminary work.

Mr Bertolus said council staff had been given a strong message from councillors from the outset to remain at arms length of the audit.

“We were basically told to leave it alone,” he said.

“There is an implication that somehow the officers were in some way responsible for a delay.

“But I am personally liable for this stuff so why would I take the risk?”

Meanwhile, Mr Bertolus confirmed Local Government Victoria executive director Nick Foa will be at Moira today.

He will attend the regular pre-meeting briefing and will be invited to stay on for the council meeting being held at Wunghnu.