Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upon says it’s “a bit rich” for Bayside Council to be asking for $17 million to compensate for the corrupt actions of former Botany Bay Council employees.
Ms Upton was responding to Rockdale MP Steve Kamper’s call in Parliament for the government to use unspent funding from council amalgamations to meet the request.
“It is regrettable the ratepayers of Bayside Council have been left with a massive cost, caused by corrupt conduct while Botany Council was run by Labor,” Ms Upton said in a statement.
“Seeking a further $17 million when the council has already been provided with $20 million worth of additional funds as part of the amalgamation process is a bit rich.
“This $10 million for the upfront costs of merging and $10 million to kick-start delivery of community infrastructure projects is of real benefit to the newly merged council.”
Rockdale MP Steve Kamper says the state government should use unspent funding from council amalgamations to give Bayside Council $17 million to “clean up the mess” from corruption on Botany Bay Council.
Bayside Council voted unanimously in February to seek the $17 million to recompense ratepayers for funds misappropriated by employees of the former council.
Mr Kamper told Parliament on Tuesday, “dissappointingly, Bayside Council is yet to receive a response from the minister or any other representative of the government”.
“When the government announced the forced amalgamation of councils it promised that it would bear the cost of the mergers and that the projected benefits would go to the local communities affected,” he said.
“In Bayside, the ratepayers have been left with the burden of cleaning up a mess that was not detected for years by the Department of Local Government.
“It will cost local residents upwards of $17 million to clean up, including the cost of implementing systems and practices so that this can never be allowed to happen again, to cover the ongoing legal and audit burden, and to compensate the ratepayers for the grossly corrupt conduct of the late Gary Goodman and his associates.”
Mr Kamper said Bayside Council needed additional funding to meet the “unforeseen shortfall”.
”Now that the government has abandoned many of its originally proposed council mergers – following political pressure – I understand that a significant amount of money that was budgeted for council merger packages and the Stronger Communities Fund remains unspent,” he said.
“This money was previously allocated in the state budget to compensate merged councils.
“The government should stay true to its word and provide additional funding to communities such as Bayside that have demonstrable costs above and beyond their initial allocation”.
Mr Kamper said the residents of Bayside were “the victims of daylight robbery by a group of corrupt officers and their accomplices”.
It would go a good way to rebuilding trust in the community if this Government were to take a fair approach and recognise that its department should have implemented better controls to stop this sort of fraudulent behaviour,” he said.
“In addition to the money Gary Goodman and his associates directly stole, Channel 7 News recently reported that a long-term contract was signed to provide services to the airport, which is operating at a significant loss every year to ratepayers.
“That represents a substantial ongoing burden for the council for several years to come.”
Mr Kamper said, during the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inquiry Operation Ricco, it was revealed that, in the past few years of the former Botany Bay Council, the Airport Business Unit was being run by Mr Goodman's brother.
“In fact, its operations were at the heart of the gross corruption brought to light by the ICAC,” he said.
Mr Kamper said the Bayside Council administrator Greg Wright said in his end of term report the loss from fraud and corruption was well above that reported by ICAC and the true extent of the costs to the community may never be known.
“Mayor Bill Saravinovski and the Bayside councillors are doing their best to deal with these problems, but the time has come for the government to deliver on its promised benefits of the amalgamation process,” Mr Kamper said.
The Leader is seeking a response from Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton.