Council $77k spend spurs inquiry call

'Contravenes' requirements

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Concerns .. Former Waimate district councillor Jim Anderson speaks at the Waimate District Council meeting on Tuesday. PHOTO: AL WILLIAMS

by Al Williams

Opponents of unbudgeted spending of more than $77,000 by the Waimate District Council are calling for an independent inquiry.
St Andrews Residents and Ratepayers Association secretary Bernard Sommerfeld and former Waimate district councillor Jim Anderson have raised concerns the council has contravened local government legislative requirements by allocating $77,123 in unbudgeted capital expenditure and authorising extra work to be undertaken on the new Waimate Event Centre.
Both men shared their concerns during public session time at the council’s meeting on Tuesday.
Mr Sommerfeld called for an independent inquiry by the council’s auditors and Mr Anderson said the process followed by the council “seriously contravenes local government legislative requirements”.
Waimate Mayor Craig Rowley told them a formal reply would be issued in the following days.
He refused to comment when questioned by The Courier
Mr Sommerfeld said he and Mr Anderson had been nominated at a special Residents and Ratepayers Association meeting in St Andrews last month to present a resolution.
Councillors “could have been, and should have been, informed at the time the extra work was necessary for flooring and office space”, he said.
“It should have been known to our area councillors and a full council decision taken on any unbudgeted capital expenditure,” Mr Sommerfeld said.
“We are concerned over the lack of teamwork in these actions. Our understanding of the principles of the Local Government Act is that it requires all councils to be open, transparent and accountable of business, and not a darker shade of grey.
“We are also alarmed that this decision was made by some elected representatives and some staff, and the additional work was completed several months before anyone else knew about it, until after the recent council elections.”
Mr Sommerfeld said the St Andrews Residents and Ratepayers Association was not opposed to the Waimate Event Centre “but we are seriously concerned that some councillors and some staff are making important decisions on how our money is spent without the knowledge of our rural representatives”.
Mr Anderson asked the meeting: “Why was the correct procedure not followed and full council approval sought at the beginning?”
“Why weren’t the Pareora, Otaio and Makikihi ward councillors made aware of this unbudgeted cost at the first formal meeting after the decision by management to proceed following an informal discussion on site with councillors?”