16 November 2006

Government keeps SA public in dark

Two instances of government fudging in SA. The first, where the state government, more specifically Transport Minister Patrick Conlon, has refused to disclose the amounts paid for land for the planned northern suburbs expressway.

LAND acquisition cost estimates for the new $550 million Northern Expressway will not be revealed, so the Government does not "pay more than it should by being indiscreet".Transport Minister Patrick Conlon said the land acquisition was a major component of the project. "One of the things we are not going to do is separate out the components of funding," he said."If we say we have X dollars for acquisition then that's what people will be asking us for."

"We are not going to set the Government up as a patsy in this regard. Everyone can be assured the project will go to the Public Works Committee and every detail will be known."

He said feedback on the expressway and its new route had been positive. "Land acquisition does not need to take place for another 18 months," he said.

"We are treating this with urgency and sensitivity. There are always going to be difficulties and controversies."

Construction is expected to start in 2008 and completed in 2011, with parts of 79 properties likely to be acquired.

Mr Conlon said some landowners would be less happy than others, but the bottom line was if the Government was not prepared to do these things, the state would not have the infrastructure it needed.

The state's largest road project for more than 40 years, the expressway runs past Penfield and Gawler's western edge.

The four-lane expressway is designed to boost freight links from the Sturt Highway to Port Adelaide.

At the local government level there's been a lot of buckpassing aboutdisclosure (or non-disclosure) of remuneration of council staff.

LOCAL councils are paying nearly 100 of their executives more than $100,000 a year and many receive performance bonuses.

The Adelaide City Council has 25 staff on more than $100,000 and 12 are paid bonuses.

The Port Adelaide-Enfield Council has 22 officers earning above $100,000 and also pays performance bonuses of 1 per cent a year.

But the full extent of the bonus payments and salaries paid are not available because some councils are refusing to release the information.

Independent MP Bob Such wrote to all 18 councils in September, asking a series of questions about payments to executives, use of council cars and whether staff were given rostered days off or time off in lieu of overtime.

Only 10 councils replied, while Onkaparinga, Charles Sturt and Holdfast Bay said the Local Government Association would respond on their behalf.

Replies were not received from Prospect, Marion, Adelaide Hills, Mitcham, and Norwood, Payneham & St Peters.

Of the 10 who did, four councils said they paid employee bonuses - Salisbury, Adelaide, Campbelltown and Port Adelaide-Enfield.

Salisbury pays the city manager $15,000 extra a year "subject to performance assessment", Adelaide pays 12 staff bonuses which are "performance based", Campbelltown pays its managers bonuses based on performance, while Port Adelaide-Enfield executives are paid a 1 per cent bonus based on occupational health and safety targets.

Only Burnside, Campbelltown and Walkerville said they did not provide cars or reimburse mayors for using a private car on mayoral duties. Only Walkerville said it paid extra superannuation as part of an executive package.

"Councils are not there to make a profit," Dr Such said. "They are there to serve the community like the public service."

Local Government Association executive director Wendy Campagna wrote to Dr Such, saying four of 68 councils in the state use bonus payments.

"They are common-place in private industry and at a time when there is a skills shortage in management expertise," she said.

Dr Such, as often, has a good point here: councils are not there to make a profit. Ms Campagna's explanation is disingenuous: the website of Local Government Association, her employer, states clearly: "Councils are part of our system of government".

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