Council seeks more control over museum

A range of ways the Dunedin City Council could more closely monitor the Otago Museum and its board has been outlined for councillors this week.

The museum received a $3.8 million annual levy from the council, was already accountable to the council through its annual planning, reporting and levy processes, and provided quarterly reports to the council.

But there were several ways councillors could more closely follow the legislative process to scrutinise the activities of the museum and its board, the council's community development committee was told.

Councillors could make a formal submission on the museum's annual budget, could ask for additional information on matters of interest in the museum's annual report and could invite the museum chairman to attend meetings to answer questions as required.

Staff could receive the museum's quarterly reports earlier and provide councillors with a covering report.

The museum board's chairman could be invited to meetings to answer queries.

Work was also under way to develop guidelines for the role of councillors appointed to outside organisations - the council appoints four out of the 10 members on the museum trust board - and to develop a common set of key performance indicators across all the cultural facilities for which the council contributed financially or at a governance level.

Under the Otago Museum Trust Board Act, the council has little control over how the museum operates and spends its levies.

Despite that, questions were raised last year about how the museum was held accountable for the significant funding council gave it.

The questions followed claims of bullying, salary anomalies at the museum and the revelation museum chief executive Shimrath Paul's salary was higher than many other Otago chief executives and national public servant bosses.

Committee members asked if there were chances to engage directly and have full and frank discussions with the museum's chairman or chief executive.

Council general manager strategy and development Sue Bidrose said there were, and it would be best done through the museum's annual budget process.

Cr Colin Weatherall, who is also a member of the museum trust board (which is not required to report back to council), said by identifying the options it had to monitor the museum more closely, the council was presenting a stronger face about how it wanted to liaise with the museum.

Cr Teresa Stevenson said she thought the committee needed to be "a bit tougher" with the museum, and make its representatives sit down with councillors to run through their operations.

"It is for us as councillors to look at them and scrutinise them."



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