Bega Valley Shire Council’s audited financial statements for the 2021-22 financial year are available for public viewing and were presented to councillors and the public on Wednesday (March 22).
Council’s Director Business and Governance, Iliada Bolton, said the statements are available on council’s website and in the shire’s libraries.
“The NSW Audit Office presented and explained the financial statements to Councillors,” Ms Bolton said.
“The Auditor General has issued a qualified audit opinion in the report, due to council not recognising rural firefighting equipment as assets within ‘Infrastructure, property, plant and equipment’ in the Statement of Financial Position at 30 June 2022,” she said.
“At the 17 August 2022 Council meeting, Councillors supported council’s objection to the NSW Government’s determination on ownership of Rural Fire Service (RFS) assets.
“As such, Council did not carry out a stocktake of RFS assets on behalf of the NSW Government and did not record RFS assets in our financial statements.
“In fact, we called on the NSW Government to take immediate action to permanently clear up inequities and inconsistencies around the accounting treatment of RFS assets by acknowledging that rural firefighting equipment is vested in, under the control of and, the property of the RFS and asked it to amend s119 of the Rural Fires Act 1997 to make it clear that RFS assets are not the property of any council.
“We are one of at least 37 councils that have received a qualified audit report based on the NSW Government’s position to mandate that councils must include RFS assets in their accounts.”
Some Bega Valley residents are unhappy with the fact people in the shire were asked to comment on the proposed Special Rate Variation that council proposed for the upcoming financial year before council’s audited 2021/22 annual report was released.
“It was supposed to have been released in November 2022, and hadn’t been produced until mid March 2023, long after the local and IPART consultation period ended,” Pambula resident Richard Everett told East Coast Radio.
“A person could reasonably wonder why/how that even occurred.”
Contributing to the financial operating results, Ms Bolton said Council received, in advance, Financial Assistance Grants (an increase of $2.9 million from 2021) and $23.9 million in non-recurring Natural Disaster operational grants (an increase of $22.4 million from 2021) which were accounted for in the 2022 financial year.
“The impact of this is we are reporting an inflated net operating surplus because we received those grants in advance,” Ms Bolton said.
Image: James Fennessy – East Coast Radio