Angry residents march for audit

ANGRY Moira Shire residents will stage a protest march through Cobram on Monday and then lodge a petition demanding an independent audit of the council’s finances and operations.

More than 20 ratepayers have said they will march before the petition is handed to council staff.

The march will move from the edge of town, through the shopping centre and end at the council offices.

Disgruntled ratepayers have gathered a 1097-signature petition.

Those who have signed include the council’s former chief financial officer, Adrian Pawar.

They had hoped to hand in the petition at the most recent council meeting, but they claimed they had been gagged from speaking about their concerns.

“Our walk will be silent,” Mr Pawar said.

“But it will be symbolic of a community that is united in its cause to demand the council immediately implement the independent probity audit in accordance with the standing and valid council resolution of February 17 this year.”

It was unanimously agreed to by councillors, but was shelved a month later on legal grounds.

The council’s new chief executive, Mark Henderson, recently said the audit call appeared to fall outside protocols recommended by Local Government Victoria and would be difficult to implement.

But Mr Pawar said “the council “should be capable enough to understand the difference between its internal audit that is scheduled — and called for by their audit committee — and the independent probity audit that the residents of Moira shire are clearly and overwhelmingly calling for”.

Local Government Minister Tim Bull is retaining an arms-length approach to Moira.

He is placing his faith in Mr Henderson putting the shire back on track.

“The new chief executive will understandably need to take some time to observe the practices and processes in the council and to make any necessary improvements,” Mr Bull said.

“I understand the council has requested a probity audit be undertaken.

“This is an appropriate decision of the council and both the council and the chief executive should be allowed the opportunity to consider and respond to the findings of the audit.

“This is an internal audit by the council of which I, in my capacity as the minister for Local Government, have no role.

“Any community concerns about the management of the Council should be raised with the new chief executive.”