Budget worry

July 13, 2017

Questions have been raised about the Shepparton Alternative Route works' inclusion in the Greater Shepparton City Council 2017-18 budget.

Victoria’s local government minister will be looking into concerns flagged with the department about a Greater Shepparton City Council 2017-18 budget item for Shepparton Alternative Route works.

Questions have been raised about how the item was included in the final budget and around whether the about $886000 allocated to the works correspond to the described works.

Council chief executive Peter Harriott yesterday defended the level of transparency around the item’s inclusion.

He conceded the line item had not been included in the council’s draft budget but argued the council had previously approved the works that include the funding in question.

Councillors in February approved $1.34million worth of road improvements to a failing section of Old Dookie Rd, aimed to upgrade the key freight route.

Rocky D’Agostino has flagged concern about ‘‘where precisely was that to be spent’’ and whether the wording in the budget reflected the allocation accurately.

‘‘I don’t know when the alternative route became Old Dookie Rd,’’ he said adding that in budget documents the council needed to be ‘‘clear, precise and transparent.’’

‘‘It’s a document that must read precisely what it says.’’

Mr D’Agostino said he had believed the item had been missing from the draft budget and questioned whether it had ‘‘gone to public scrutiny’’.

‘‘One would say how has that come into play?’’

‘‘That’s basically all I’m asking, how did that get in there?’’ he said of the final budget.

Mr Harriott conceded the item ‘‘should have been’’ in the draft budget but stressed changes in the final budget had been clearly identified.

He said it was not a transparency issue and that the public had been made aware of this project when works were awarded in February.

‘‘I understand it was an issue of wanting the most accurate figure available, it’s one of these issues about projects that go over multiple financial years,’’ he said.

‘‘The longer we leave that the more accurate we can be.

‘‘(We’re) always on the lookout for ways we can improve, and if a review of this project identifies we could do it better, we’re quite happy to look at that and make some improvements.’’

Mr Harriott said in this instance, he did not think the public were impacted and that the matter was clear to anyone interested in the origin of the Shepparton Alternative Route Project.

A spokesperson for Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins said the department would look into matters raised in correspondence.

‘‘As with all correspondence received by the minister, the matter will be looked into,’’ the spokesperson said.

‘‘Councils should always consult with their communities about their budget.’’

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