Australia

“Trauma”: An Admin’s Plea to Fix Coober Pedy

A former superintendent of the debt-ridden Coober Pedy District Council said three years of trying to fix the outback town’s finances had been “very difficult and very traumatic”, prompting the state government to pay for the town’s water and Asked again to purchase electricity assets.

Former Playford Council CEO Tim Jackson, who has served as administrator of the Coober Pedy Council since the elected agency was suspended in January 2019, said the Marinaskas government has put Coober Pedy’s future on track. He said he had to be prepared to make “hard decisions” to get on board.

The comments came after Local Government Minister Jeff Bullock made the announcement this week. A multi-agency task force led by the Prime Minister and Cabinet Established to investigate the matter of the indebted council and determine how to move forward.

The state government is also introducing legislation next month that will extend the council’s suspension as an elected body until 2026.

Jackson said he supported the move to bring the council under control, but said he did not intend to continue as administrator.

“It was very difficult and very traumatic,” Jackson said of his role.

“There are a lot of lawsuits going on.

“Most of it subsided…but it sure was difficult.”

Debt must be carried forward every 6 months and refinanced every 6 months. This is really, really hard.

He said an elected Coober Pedy council could be reinstated by 2026, but “there’s a lot of work to be done.”

“We stabilized the organization, and that’s the most important thing,” Jackson said.

“We are certainly not in a tight spot financially as the state government has some important decisions to make.

“Fundamentally, I think the disagreements within the community have subsided significantly, if not completely.”

The Coober Pedy District Council is unique in South Australia as it manages the local airport and child care centre, as well as the provision of water and electricity services to toll payers.

The City Council has more than $10 million in debt owed to various creditors, including more than $7 million owned by the Municipal Financing Authority and one owned by the town’s generator, EDL. Includes approximately $2 million.

“I would like to be able to pay EDL. [debt] – It’s a pity that the local government finance office won’t lend us money.

“So every six months we have to carry forward the debt and every six months we have to refinance, which is very difficult.

“I can’t believe the state government didn’t step in and say, ‘We can help you, or at least guarantee your debt.’

“There are assets out there, which means we have $14 million worth of electricity and water assets, so it’s not like we have nothing.”

Jackson wrote to Bullock following local legislators Surprise Cabinet Inauguration in March He said he “strongly supports” the state government’s purchase of Coober Pedy’s electricity and water assets at a “current value of $12 million.”

“This makes the council much smaller and simpler,” Jackson wrote at the time.

“This will reduce the council’s annual revenue from $16 million to $4 million and assets from $30 million to $18 million.”

He also told Bullock that “the water situation in Coober Pedy is unbearable right now” and requested $1.3 million in temporary state government subsidies to ensure fair pricing.

“The rate of leaks and bursts from aging infrastructure has reached the point where 30% to 50% of water is wasted each year,” Jackson wrote.

“As a result, consumers pay three times what SA Water’s customers pay. This is unfair and unacceptable.”

block said Indaily On Tuesday, it will be up to a new multi-agency task force to decide what help is needed to help Coober Pedy and whether the state government should buy council utilities. .

“People may say give them $20 million or something and try to sort out their finances, but we have to deal with the issue,” Bullock said.

“What symptoms? That’s what we have to identify by putting this group together.”

Bullock, who will travel to Coober Pedy next week, said the local government agency would go through a process to express interest in Jackson’s replacement.

“Tim is doing a good job there.

“If Tim doesn’t want to extend his contract, so be it. I appreciate his efforts over the last four years. It’s been very difficult.

“We will seek expressions of interest from other administrators. Once we receive expressions of interest, we will give you an opportunity to make a final decision.”

In January 2019, former Local Government Minister Stephen Knoll appointed Jackson as administrator for the first time for a one-year term.

The decision was 2018 Report by Ombudsman Wayne Lines The Coober Pedy Council has held “one of the most serious examples of mismanagement” it has seen in its decision to award a $198 million power contract with EDL without going to a tender. discovered.

A 2018 Comptroller General’s report also found multiple violations of council’s obligations under the Local Government Act and warned it was carrying unsustainable levels of debt.

Sam Telfer, spokesperson for Shadow Local Government and former president of the Association of Local Governments, said the Coober Pedy council and community are working “to provide sustainable water and electricity to the township.” We need affordable business models.”

“Although the responsibility now lies at the council’s feet, what Coober Pedy needs now from Jeff Bullock is more action than quarrels,” Telfer said in a statement.

“The former Liberal Government has ordered its administrators to streamline the council process and identify solutions for consideration.

“We are lobbying for the people of Coober Pedy to get the support they deserve, but Jeff Bullock needs to stand up to his workers colleagues and stand up for the community to get the job done.”

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“Trauma”: An Admin’s Plea to Fix Coober Pedy

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