The long awaited Ombudsman’s report has now been released. See:

What we discover is that councils (Glen Eira, Stonnington & Port Phillip) all owe millions to drivers who were fined by outsourced agencies (ie Tenix) and requests for review were not done by council but this agency. This is seen by the Ombudsman and government as contrary to law under the Infringement’s Act and the Road Traffic Act.

What is even more reprehensible is that all of these councils knew of this for years but did not notify the public. In refusing to remove parking fines none of these councils made it crystal clear that Tenix was the body reviewing the fines and not council officers. Furthermore, all rejection letters included anonymous signatures such as  ‘Appeals Review Officer on behalf of Glen Eira City Council’. The lack of transparency and accountability is commented on repeatedly. Even more insulting is that all of these councils had meetings, legal advice, etc. without once informing residents. Adding salt to the wounds is the refusal of these councils to furnish the ombudsman with the legal advice provided (which councils are legally entitled not to do). But, unless there is something to hide, why not furnish these documents? In short, the name of the game was to keep mum, avoid responsibility, and hope all this goes away.

It didn’t thanks to the public announcements by such councils as Monash and Kingston, the complaints forwarded and the initiative of the ombudsman.

All of this simply makes us wonder what else this council is keeping quiet about. When a council foregoes it duty to be open, transparent and accountable, we are in trouble.

Here are some quotes and stats from the report that relate specifically to Glen Eira.

  • In 2017/18, 68,000 parking infringements were issued
  • Glen Eira said that it ‘relied on Tenix to provide appropriate advice in accordance with its contractual arrangements’. Tenix responded that ‘in no way could it be reasonably interpreted that the council would require that Tenix act as its legal advisor as regards whether or not the council had the authority to contract the services in the first instance’.
  • When Ombudsman officers asked the councils why they did not identify decision makers in their letters to motorists, Glen Eira said: Council is unaware of any requirement under legislation that the decision maker is identified by name in the decision notice’.
  • Glen Eira has more than 36,000 affected infringements valued at $3.67 million

The most scathing and salient comment by the Ombudsman’s office is arguably the following:

The councils’ statements that they currently have no express legal obligations to identify internal review decision makers or answer questions from lawyers overlooks their broader obligations as public authorities. Councils have been entrusted with a service to the public that affects people’s rights and liabilities. With that trust comes a responsibility to behave accountably and transparently. The Infringement Act only permits certain persons to make internal review decisions. Affected motorists cannot tell whether their internal review decision was authorised and valid, unless they know the identity of the decision maker. This transparency builds public confidence in the system.

Finally, here’s Glen Eira’s lamentable response:

Despite the lack of any legal determination regarding the reasonableness of Council’s actions, we do take our responsibility to act ethically and with integrity seriously. Council will therefore reflect on the findings and recommendations of this report and give early consideration to what further action may be appropriate in the circumstances, including consideration of an in good faith reimbursement scheme.