Coorong council budget questioned

Photo: File.
Photo: File.

Allegations of millions of dollars in over-spending and under-spending by the Coorong council will be investigated by its finance committee.

Ahead of the council's meeting on Tuesday, Councillor Jeff Arthur identified 34 areas in which he said the council had spent at least $20,000 more, or less, than its budget had forecast.

That included an extra $1.1 million on unsealed road maintenance, a similar amount on plant and machinery, $836,000 on depot expenses and $246,000 on machinery maintenance, according to figures provided by Cr Arthur.

The council had also under-spent by $152,000 on land and water management, $130,000 on local action planning and $88,000 on consulting and conferences, among other areas.

Cr Arthur was not at Tuesday's meeting, but resident Stephen Paech took up the fight on his behalf.

"This would be a major concern to most ratepayers," he said.

"Why bother having a budget if you can't keep to the budget items?"

Acting chief executive officer David Mosel suggested staff shortages and issues with the council's accounting software had made it hard to be sure of the numbers recently.

"Our finance team has been trying to work with the system we have, but it hasn't been user friendly over the last six to 12 months," he said.

"The information going into it hasn't been exactly correct."

However, he denied Mr Paech's claim that "a lot" of council projects had gone over budget in recent years.

When Mr Paech gave the example of Meningie's stormwater project, Mr Mosel said its final cost had been "only a few hundred" dollars away from budgeted estimates.

The finance committee will discuss the issues raised by Cr Arthur at its next meeting.