Labor’s Rod Harding accuses LNP of secrecy, promises to open books

May 24, 2015 – 12:00AM

Cameron Atfield

Journalist

Labor Lord Mayoral candidate Rod Harding.
Labor Lord Mayoral candidate Rod Harding. Photo: Michelle Smith

Brisbane City Council’s Labor opposition has accused Lord Mayor Graham Quirk and his Liberal National Party administration of covering up the true state of the city’s finances.

And would-be lord mayor Rod Harding has promised to open the books to opposition LNP councillors should he be successful at next year’s council election.

The City Hall opposition was this month refused access to chief financial officer Paul Oberle’s audit report, which was presented to an audit committee meeting of senior bureaucrats in March.

Mr Harding, Labor’s lord mayoral candidate, said Brisbane’s elected councillors were in effect the “directors of the city” and, as such, were entitled access to the city’s financial information.

“This lack of accountability would not be tolerated in the private sector and residents should demand it not be tolerated in council either,” he said.

Fairfax Media has seen emails between Labor councillor Shayne Sutton, a member of the council’s finance committee, and an unnamed “operations manager” that show her unsuccessful attempts to get access to the CFO’s report.

The report was presented to the council’s audit committee on March 12 but Cr Sutton told Fairfax Media she only became aware the report existed when the minutes of that meeting came to the council on May 5.

“It is my understanding that in my role as councillor and member of the Finance Committee, I am entitled to review this record,” Cr Sutton said in her email dated May 7.

The council’s information management division did not agree.

“The information sought does not directly relate to the ward represented by you,” the operations manager wrote back four days later.

“You have no entitlement to information as a result of your membership of the finance committee.

“You are only entitled to see the information brought to that committee.”

Mr Harding said it was a “simple request” that should have been approved and the decision showed opposition councillors were being treated with “disdain”.

“That doesn’t stack up, it’s not right and this, to me, is endemic of a council that’s been in for 12 years, been in for too long, they’ve got a born-to-rule attitude,” he said.

“This is effectively a director of Brisbane City Council who’s asked for a financial report and it’s just been denied for no valid reason.”

In response to Labor’s complaint, a spokesman for Cr Quirk said the audit committee minutes went to a full council meeting each month.

“This has only occurred under the LNP administration,” he said.

“The chief financial officer’s report is an integral part of the budget process.

“Brisbane’s credit rating is strong with a neutral outlook, one of the highest in Queensland.”

Mr Harding said as lord mayor he would provide all councillors, no matter their political persuasion, with all monthly financial audit reports “whether they are good, bad or indifferent”.

“If the shadow finance spokesperson who’s on the finance committee asks for a financial report, if the report exists we would certainly make it available, absolutely without question,” he said.

 

The Brisbane Times

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