THE 2013 Whitsunday Regional Council audited report is finally available. Financials may be boring but the chairman, directors, CEO and managers need good numbers to keep their jobs. I'm told the CFO says they’re "a best seller".
It sure is but for a different conclusion. It confirms Treasury and ratepayers were misled two months earlier (April 2013) when “cash was forecasted exhausted” by FY 2013 and "facing a $17m deficit". This "chicken little $100m debt crisis" forecast, was a basis for $25m of loans, huge rate rises and charges. But instead of the sky falling, we’ve $30+m extra cash and $46 m turnaround to a $29m surplus! Best seller indeed. But wait there's more.
The CFO said he'd listen to me about employee costs, initially $6m then $2.5m over in unaudited FY2013. Somehow he got auditors to accept only $0.3m over last years $27m. How come after massive management recruitment/staff releases? Perhaps the answer is in a new category of $6.4m more for consultants and contractors? Wow and we thought only a “$853,000 efficiency report”.
So after an uncontested $18m NDRRA overspend; $21m water and sewerage plus $6m Airlie Beach overspends, we’ve an extra $6m for “consultants” - $50m+ of un-budgeted costs. Fast forward Jan 2014, and we’ve already drawn down a $10m loan, $6m of the extra $12m pa rate increases and still have $7m cash.
With no savings apparent doesn’t this tell you something about the accounts this mob inherited? Yep with only $18m extra income the “fat” in the previous accounts absorbed $50m of incompetence. It tells me the previous regime forecasted surpluses would’ve meant rate reductions within two years (instead of rate increases) if project and operating costs were competently managed.
Yes we’ll return to surplus in a year’s time, despite $50m of incompetent management; $30m of recommended NDRRA funds foregone but despite being slugged at least 20 per cent pa extra rates.
A good set of numbers indeed. John W Barnes BOWEN