Dubbo City Council spent about $582,400 on consultants in the past 12 months, a report to last night’s council meeting revealed.
The technical services division, which deals with water, sewerage and road works, was the biggest spender, chalking up almost $400,000 in consultancy costs.
Council turned to consultants on 152 occasions between April 1 2000 and March 31 2001 for matters ranging from soil testing to the preparation of an economic strategy. Last night a majority of councillors agreed to accept an anonymous $12,000 donation to fund the internal inquiry and added another year to the investigation by backdating it to July 1 1995.
Council was told costs for engaging consultants for 2000/01 financial year accounted for just less than one per cent of the total budget. But Gerry Peacocke argued that was enough to make significant inroads in rate revenue which council had a responsibility to keep “within bounds”.
Meanwhile Cr Sam Peacocke, who pushed for the review in the first place, said the latest report emphasised the need for a more detailed investigation.
Prior to the meeting Cr Peacocke said that the sums were “so significant” as to warrant council to “drill down further to look into it”.
He added that he had a “general sort of gripe” that one firm had undertaken the bulk of the consultancy work.
“A lot of people have stopped me in the street to say it’s important we get this information,” Cr Peacocke said yesterday.
“But the issue isn’t who got the work or why so much as have we got trained staff leaping to use consultants too much.”
An attempt by deputy mayor Arthur Mortimer to confine the inquiry to just five firms was defeated. Cr Mortimer said the move would reduce the time to complete the investigation and also address the “apparent imbalance in the provision of consulting services by these firms”.
The report revealed that Terra Consulting received the lion’s share of business during the year, raking in more than $186,400, including $23,230 as part of a consortium working on the Troy Junction sewerage works. Cr (Gerry) Peacocke argued, however, that his colleague’s suggestion would appear to be a witch-hunt.
Council’s administrative and financial services director Grahame Marchant agreed it was a matter of interpretation and that staff had erred in favour of giving councillors more rather than less information. Before the meeting Mr Marchant said there was nothing unusual about the expenditure.
“There is no problem here – they are all the normal things councils do all the time,” he said.
A report outlining council’s dealings with consultants between July 1, 1999 and March 31, 2000 will be handed to next month’s meeting.
This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.Read more