Overhaul for boards of ski fields

Hunter

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Aug 21, 2000
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Overhaul for boards of ski fields
Josh Gordon
October 13, 2007


VICTORIA'S alpine resort management boards are to be overhauled after an audit report found widespread problems with personal expense claims and record keeping.

A long-awaited inquiry by auditors KPMG into the five boards managing Victoria's ski fields has identified a litany of issues, including problems with corporate credit cards, potential for conflicts of interest and a lack of documentation.

The audit follows revelations in The Age that the former chairwoman of the Falls Creek board, Judy Ward, had claimed $1100 to attend a Labor Party fund-raising event. Ms Ward announced her decision to resign last week for personal reasons.

The Age also revealed that former environment minister John Thwaites, who resigned in July, had regularly received free ski trips and hospitality from the boards he appointed.

In the wake of the audit, Mr Thwaites' successor, Environment Minister Gavin Jennings, said the institutional, governance and accountability arrangements governing the boards would be reviewed by the State Services Authority, with recommendations coming into effect after 2010.

"We need to ensure the delivery of appropriate and effective municipal services," Mr Jennings said. "We need to review and, if necessary, modify the structures to reflect the niche tourism opportunities of each resort and give them the flexibility to define their own … needs."

The boards of Victoria's alpine resorts are appointed by the environment minister. They are mainly funded through fees and charges, but also receive funding from the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

It is likely the review will consider boosting local representation, amid claims that the boards lack accountability and have failed to act in the best interests of alpine communities.

Mr Jennings said it had been a decade since the arrangements governing the boards had been put in place, and it was time to consider whether the correct balance between environmental concerns, commercial operations and local communities had been struck.

The most serious breach identified in the audit report was at Falls Creek, relating to the "untimely repayment" of Ms Ward's dubious expense claim.

The report concluded that rules relating to personal expense claims need to be improved and said all senior members of the resort boards should be made to declare any potentially conflicting business or financial arrangements.

Deputy Liberal leader Louise Asher said new processes had to be put in place. "The fact that the chairwoman of the Falls Creek Alpine Resort Board made a political donation was only detected by accident," she said.
 
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Hunter

Part of the Furniture
Endless Winter
Aug 21, 2000
13,461
537
813
goughs bay
FORMER deputy premier John Thwaites and his advisers took six publicly funded ski trips to Mount Hotham in recent years — including three visits to the resort in as many months last winter, according to new documents.

Mr Thwaites, who resigned on the same day as former premier Steve Bracks in July, visited Mount Hotham for the opening of the season in June last year as well as making trips in July and August. The visits, revealed in documents released under freedom-of-information laws, are in addition to trips to other ski resorts including Falls Creek and Mount Buller over the same period.

In June, The Age revealed that Mr Thwaites and his family had frequently accepted free ski holidays, including accommodation, lift passes and entertainment, from the alpine management boards he appointed.

The new documents, which were obtained by the Liberal Party, show accommodation expenses of more than $8500 for the visits.

The documents do not show if the alpine resorts or the Government paid for the accommodation, but do show a 10-day visit to Mount Hotham in September 2004.

The Opposition said the controversy over Mr Thwaites' trips was a factor in his resignation, a claim disputed by the former deputy premier.

Deputy Opposition leader Louise Asher said the documents showed an abuse of Mr Thwaites' ministerial position and the trips should have been declared in Parliament's register of interests.

Ms Asher called on Premier John Brumby to intervene and ask Mr Thwaites to repay the money.

State Government spokeswoman Stacey Hume said Mr Thwaites was responsible for alpine resorts, and his duties required him to travel to the ski areas to promote them. She said activities on such trips included public events and meetings with executives as well as visits to surrounding areas to see environmental initiatives.

The Age was unable to contact Mr Thwaites last night.
 
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