Report highlights council issues

Photo: ODT files.
Photo: ODT files.
Audit New Zealand has highlighted issues the Invercargill City Council needs to urgently work on, including its non-compliance with the Holidays Act.

The management report, which was completed on December 15 last year, is an audit of the council’s 2019-20 annual report.

It will be tabled by council financial services manager Patricia Christie at its risk and assurance meeting today.

The Holidays Act concerns raised by Audit NZ were regarding annual leave entitlement and what rate it was paid at, for employees whose working hours had changed.

‘‘Management noted that they are unable to reliably estimate the liability at this point in time as extensive work is currently under way to estimate the potential exposure,’’ the report says.

The report recommends the council seek legal advice to assess the scale of potential legal obligations as a result of any non-compliance, perform a more thorough and detailed review and identify payroll system improvements to ensure compliance.

In comments from council management, it states it is systematically working through to balance and where necessary, recalculate the leave liability of longstanding employees whose working hours have changed.

‘‘This is not considered to be a current issue but the result of historic practices, so no payroll system improvements are necessary.’’

The council’s 2020-21 rates resolution had two errors around dollar amounts of rates payable.

One dollar amount was understated — $371.58 rather than $866.99 — and one was overstated at $33.56 rather than $32.56.

The council realised its mistake after it had set rates but before the rates were invoiced and looked at three options for correcting the problem.

After seeking legal advice, the council amended the errors and replaced them with the correct amounts.

Audit NZ recommended management improve its quality assurance process to ensure the accuracy of the rates resolution.

In reply the council said ‘‘management has ensured additional review of rates-setting processes have been put in place’’.

The report also highlighted prior year recommendations which remained outstanding or in progress.

‘‘We understand that many of these may not have been a focus for 2020,’’ the report states.

‘‘We propose to work with management to understand the proposed responses and expected timeline for implementation with a view to reporting an updated position during 2021.’’

Of the seven urgent matters, one of which dates back to 2014, four are still being actioned.

These include implementing a project management policy (2016), implementing contract and procurement management policies (2017) and reviewing the sensitive expenditure policy (2018).

The meeting will take place at the council chambers at 8.30am today.

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