Gold Coast city councilors will have to disclose discretionary fund spending under new provisions handed down by Local Government Minister Desley Boyle.
City finance chief Eddy Sarroff says the new rules will encourage responsible spending by councillors who each receive $800,000 annually in discretionary funds.
“It’s a good thing, the move is justified,” says Sarroff.
“I have often argued for the reduction in council’s divisional discretionary funds and this new rule will bring about some transparency.”
Boyle meanwhile says there have been complaints about councillors in the past who have had discretionary funds as though it were ‘in their back pocket’.
“It seemed they could go to community functions and make on-the-spot decisions to hand over cheques for thousands of dollars. It seemed to some other community groups that this was unfair as councillors through their discretionary funds were able to favour some groups over others,” she says.
“There were also concerns that discretionary funds were not properly and transparently accounted for.”
An Auditor-General’s report on the matter two years ago resulted in a new framework for the use of discretionary funds and was included under section 109 of the new Local Government Act 2009 and the Local Government (Finance, Plans and Reporting) Regulation 2010 and brought in new standards of integrity for mayoral and councillor discretionary funds.
Boyle says the actual allocation of funds must comply with a council’s already adopted community grants policy.
“This will bring to an end a practice that has no doubt been enjoyed by a number of councillors around the state over these many years,” she says.
“It will bring a new and a proper transparency and accountability for this use of ratepayer funds and it will provide some confidence for community groups that they have a fair chance to share in the monies available.”
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