Overhaul for boards of ski fields
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 â€¦ 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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