Whitsunday mayor Jennifer Whitney and Council CEO Scott Waters are working their way through Council's unfunded debts and completion of the Airlie Beach main street upgrade.
Whitsunday mayor Jennifer Whitney and Council CEO Scott Waters are working their way through Council's unfunded debts and completion of the Airlie Beach main street upgrade.

Street over-budget and under-funded

WHITSUNDAY Regional Council has determined a figure for its unfunded debt incurred through the upgrade of the Airlie Beach main street.

Council's chief executive officer Scott Waters said the total cost of the upgrade, funded through contributions by State, Federal and Local Governments was $21,384,000. The total contribution to come directly from Council by way of loans and revenue was $8,037,000.

The amount still required is $3,037,000.

Mr Waters said the 2012/13 budget did not recognise the Council loan borrowing as a specific line item, which caused problems with the project's funding and led to complications in its delivery.

He said he discovered the "anomaly" shortly after becoming CEO as a result of reviewing Council's finances when issues with the 2010 National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) program came to light.

Council's chief financial officer Matthew McGoldrick then also went through the books and determined Mr Waters' findings were correct.

Mr Waters said he and Mr McGoldrick had now been working very closely on this since the new year.

He said they believed that the $3million could be found through Council's freeze on non-essential expenditure, imposed at the end of last year.

He also said Council's full findings, including an amount of liability for the NDRRA program, would be publicly disclosed at the next Council meeting, in Proserpine, on March 13.

Mayor Jennifer Whitney said the whole situation was "very disappointing for us as a Council and a collective".

She said although she was already mayor when the budget was handed down, herself and the six councillors were "shaking our heads" over the fact that the main street money was not correctly allocated.

"Because these projects have been micro-managed, accessing the data has been very difficult," she said.

Cr Whitney said the handing down of the budget was delayed until August 2012, precisely because Council was trying to obtain accurate financial data, but eventually, time ran out.

She said this was the reason for the organisational review, with the end result that Council now has "competent, qualified staff" who have taken accountability of its projects.

As for who was responsible for the mess, neither Cr Whitney, nor Mr Waters were able to comment due to ongoing investigations by Government departments and the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC).

Cr Whitney did say there was a "culture that lacked accountability".

"[And] we're now building a culture of 110 per cent accountability," she said.


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