THE Victorian Auditor-General says an accountant councillor’s concerns about Bass Coast Council’s accounting practices are based on a misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of parts of the balance sheet.
Following the release of the 2016-17 annual report, Cr Larke contacted the Auditor-General, Andrew Greaves, to investigate his concerns about $35 million listed under “Other Reserves”, which includes long service leave provision of $4.662 million, $1.5 million for the Wonthaggi highball development, $3.538 million for strategic works and an unallocated reserve of $4.679 million.
Mr Greaves responded that Cr Larke appeared to have misunderstood the nature and purpose of components of the balance sheet: the reserves were backed by the council’s net assets, which could be converted to cash or borrowing as required. “In this regard it is not an accounting requirement that reserves are presently 'cash-backed', especially as a number of the reserves will not require cash funding in the next twelve month period.”
The Auditor General stated that he was satisfied that the council's financial statements had been properly prepared.
Cr Larke has frequently claimed that as a Certified Practising Accountant he is the only one of his council colleagues with a proper understanding of the financial reports.
The Post asked him whether he proposed to release the Auditor-General’s response and whether his concerns on the council’s finances had been allayed.
He responded that he proposed to “discuss further with council as a first step in due time”.
While Cr Larke had the support of his fellow councillors immediately after the election, he soon lost it with repeated claims of financial mismanagement and a series of bizarre notices of motion relating to financial reporting.
In response to his concerns about accounting practices, the council last year invited the Victorian Auditor General to send a representative to meet with council. The auditor advised that the council accounts had received an unqualified sign-off.
Last July Cr Larke proposed the council should cut 46 jobs – 15 per cent of the council’s workforce – over the next three years. Most recently he has sought to allocate funds from the long service leave reserve for council employees for other purposes. Neither proposal won support from his fellow councillors.