Council training, travel costs questioned
A budget devoted to Invercargill city councillor training and travel has been blown with four months still to run in the financial year.
The overspend, revealed in a report to yesterday’s meeting of the Invercargill City Council’s finance and policy committee, makes up part of a $195,294 deficit reported in the democratic responsibility budget.
Councillor Karen Arnold said it was a concern the department was so far over budget.
Commentary on report said that as the budget well as the overspend on councillor training and travel, the extra expenditure was caused by consultant fees associated with the SoRDS Pace to Progress initiative, costs related to the retirement of former chief executive Richard King, and additional legal fees.
‘‘I’m just wondering, especially when you look at Pace to Progress, why we even would have bothered doing that if we actually didn’t have the money to pay for it,’’ Arnold said.
Financial services manager Dale Booth said part of the overspend was to be funded from reserves, ‘‘but even taking that into account there is still an overspend’’.
Arnold then shifted her attention to the amount spent on councillor training and travel, asking how these items were getting approved if their costs were outside the budget.
Finance and corporate services director Dean Johnston said part of the overspend was a timing issue, but all training had received approval.
‘‘Some of the training happens in the first half of the year and you need to spread the budget over 12 months, otherwise it’s all courses that have been preapproved for councillors to attend.’’
Booth said the spend on councillor training and travel was ‘‘at a full year budget now effectively’’.
Cr Ian Pottinger said the council needed more information when budgets are exceeded and that the overspend was a ‘‘mystery amount’’ that did not have sufficient support from the attached commentary.
Cr Lindsay Thomas agreed on the committee’s need for more information.
‘‘This is our budget and we’ve blown it to be perfectly honest, so while we’ve blown it, we need to be comfortable that it’s prudent spending,’’ he said.
Johnston said a more detailed report would be tabled at the next meeting of the committee.