Was the State Government 'misled' on Rattler costs?
CONCERNED by "serious doubts" about whether the Mary Valley Rattler project met the funding guidelines, Gympie MP Tony Perrett asked in State Parliament this week if the Government had been "misled" on the work.
Speaking in support of the Opposition's amendments to the Belcarra Bill yesterday, Mr Perrett said public concerns swirling around a number of Gympie Regional Council decisions like the Mary Valley Rattler highlighted the importance of the changes.
"There are serious doubts about whether the project has met the funding requirements under the Works for Queensland guidelines and whether the government has been misled," Mr Perrett said.
He said he was concerned about how the project had unfolded, and the amount of information the public had been given on the project, which had been plagued by million-dollar blowouts and shifting completion dates.
"There is growing concern in Gympie with the level of confidence in the transparency and accountability in the management of the revitalisation of the Mary Valley Rattler," the MP said in Parliament on Tuesday night.
"The Mayor (Mick Curran) has objected to calls for an audit and probity checks on the spending of Queensland taxpayers' money on the project.
"The Belcarra Bill is about transparency and accountability in state and local government.
"In this case, there is very little transparency.
"I have asked the minister a number of questions about this project and whether audit and probity checks will be made.
"It needs rigorous oversight to ensure that any mismanagement is identified," he said.
Mr Perrett, who was once deputy mayor of the Gympie council, said local government was at the "coalface" of community services.
As such, council conduct had to be "above reproach".
"The public needs to trust that decisions are made without prejudice and that their concerns are treated seriously. Community outrage is justifiable when it feels it is being conned."
He pointed to the controversial legal policy tabled before Gympie council last year.
Under the initial proposal, the mayor and CEO would approve or deny applications.
"This goes to the heart of transparency and accountability and the process and is a real-life example of the problems that we encounter in local government."
Mr Perrett said he was disappointed when he sought clarity from the State Government in the wake of community backlash to the policy.
"Most disturbingly, the minister said that if constituents feel that the council's policy for the provision of legal assistance is being used inappropriately they may wish to lodge a formal written complaint directly to the council's CEO.
"...this advice effectively gave the CEO the power to adjudicate his own decision.
"This policy was about dealing with councillor complaints and the government's response gave no confidence in transparency, good governance and robust public discourse.
"It gave tacit approval to undermining free speech."