Monthly Archives: April 2012

GESAC OPENING – DON’T GET TOO EXCITED

Last Friday (27/4), Council issued two items of interest to residents

1.  GESCA Announcement – the following appeared on the GESAC Facebook Page and the GESAC website:

“Council expects to be issued with a Certificate of Occupancy, covering the whole facility, at the start of the week of 30 April. This will be the first time that Council staff will have unrestricted access to GESAC as a whole.

GESAC staff will then complete the commissioning of the Centre to ensure that the plant is working properly, all safety requirements and in place and all of the health and recreational facilities are fully functional.

Details of the opening arrangements will be announced as soon as possible.”

While GERA welcomes the news that GESAC may be opening in the near future, given Council’s abject communication failure on the GESAC opening, GERA admits to scepticism when reading this announcement.

  • Despite practical completion/handover/Certificate of Occupancy being imminent (i.e. sometime next week) Council is still unable to provide a definite handover date.
  • In the past, Council has advised that after practical completion, extensive commissioning, outfitting and staff training would be required before the facility would be open to the public.  Hopefully, since Council has had partial access to the facility since January, some of this has already occurred.  However, no indication is given of commissioning, outfitting and staff training that has occurred and is yet to occur.  How much more informative would this announcement have been if a timeline to reach “fully functional” status had been included.

2.  The Agenda for the 1st May, 2012, Council Meeting has been posted on Council’s website.  Seriously frustrated residents, ratepayers and GESAC members will not be surprised to learn that, despite the above announcement, the entire GESAC facility barely rates a mention in the agenda.

The most significant mentions are

a)      In  Records of Assembly, 27th March and 3rd April 2012, GESAC appears as a heading.  Councillor Assemblies are informal, in camera meetings between by Councillor/s and Senior Administrators to enable Councillors to be briefed on administrative activities, project updates and issues etc.

b)      In the Financial Report for the period ending 31st March, 2012 – Item 9.10

i.            Capital Works Forecast Adjustments (page 2)

        • Leased asset (gym equipment) decrease 639K
        • GESAC Café Furniture and Fittings decrease 344K

In both cases, the decrease is due to accounting “reclassifications” – no money has actually been saved and no reason for the reclassification has been given.

                    ii.            Financial Performance (page 6) year to date shows

        • Loss of income expected from GESAC – $1.93m
        • GESAC consulting suite income loss 60K

As mentioned in previous posts, it is not possible determine the offsetting savings (if any) in expenditures resulting from GESAC not opening.

The significance of the GESAC facility and its potential to be a financial burden on ratepayers demands that Council live up to its promises of open, transparent and accountable governance (i.e. readily available and easily understandable informative information presented in a timely manner to the community by those accountable to the community).

This is the responsibility of all Councillors and once again this Council has failed.

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GESAC OPENING – WHY ARE WE WAITING IN SILENCE?

It is the 18th April, 2012, with only 12 days to go until May is upon us and still no definitive word about a GESAC opening date – not even a hint of the hoopla that will accompany the announcement.  Since this Council has decided to adopt a “say nothing policy” it is impossible to assess whether Council can “pull the rabbit out of hat” over the next 12 days.  In the past Council stated that the builder (Hansen Yuncken) is responsible for the delays.  Due to Council’s failure to provide information, the causes of the delays are unable to be determined, however, the responsibility to communicate GESAC progress to residents, ratepayers and GESAC members has always firmly rested with Council (Councillors and Administration).  GERA’s earlier posts on the GESAC delays clearly show that Council has abjectly failed to communicate.

At this month’s Council Meeting, GESAC progress was not raised (again), however, the following public question was raised and is recorded in the just published 10th April, 2012 Council Minutes (Public Questions – Section 11.4)

Would Council please advised (GERA typo correction) the date it expects GESAC facilities will be available for use by residents, members, ratepayers and the public? Will all facilities be available on this date or will the implementation be staged?.  If the implementation is to be staged, please advise which facilities will be available on which date. What works are required to be completed (and their timeline) to achieve the dates given in response to the above questions?” 

Jamie Hyams read out the following non-answer (no dates given, works not listed and no timeline provided)

“Based on information provided by the Builder Council expects to open the whole GESAC sometime in April.  The construction contract has not reached Practical Completion.  Council cannot open GESAC until that Practical Completion has been achieved, the plant has been commissioned and staff training has been completed.  Works are ongoing throughout the facility but principally in the aquatics area”

 GERA does not pretend to be in the construction industry but has learnt, from the  Victorian Department of Health and Safety website (scroll down – it provides succint info), that specific requirements for and the definition of what constitutes “practical completion” are included in each construction contract.  In general, lay terms “practical completion”

  • means that all works are complete, with the exception of minor omissions and defects which will not affect handover to, and occupation by, the Principal and facility users.  Minor omissions and defects are those that do not restrict the facility being used for its intended purpose or require facility closure for restorative works.
  • does not relieve the contractor from the need to rectify minor omissions and defects in a timely manner, and it is important that progress on rectifying omissions and defects is closely monitored.
  • a Certificate of Occupation is issued.
  • defines the contractual end date for the contractor’s liability for liquidated damages or the Principal’s liability for prolongation costs

Given the persistent silence of Council, the above response to the public question asked and the outline of  “practical completion”, indicate that the situation, as at 10th April, 2012, is

  • the omissions and defects in GESAC are such that they prevent the facility from being used for its intended purpose and/or closure for restorative works may be required.  Hence the auspices for “sometime in April” are not looking good.
  • ambiguous.  On practical completion, is all commissioning and staff training to commence or is some already being undertaken.  (Compare the above response to the Glen Eira News, April 2012 which indicates commissioning and fitting out has and is occurring).  If commissioning and staff training is all to occur after practical completion, then the “sometime in April” auspices begin to look even worse.
  • based on the first sentence in Council’s response, it appears Council will  again point the finger at the  builder rather than admit any short comings on the part of the oversight committee (i.e. Crs. Lipshutz, Esakoff and Magee, the CEO Newton and Major Projects Admin Officers Judge and Snell).   5 months after scheduled opening date and no precise opening date determined falls way short of residents demands and managerial expectations.

In addition, Council should also note that an integral element in any financially successful business (lets face it,  if GESAC is to be the success that Council claims it will be it has to be run as a business) is goodwill.  Existing customers (GESAC members) and potential customers (ratepayers/residents) are opting away from GESAC – the lack of frustration and certainty offered by competitors is very appealing.  Council’s “say nothing policy” is fostering anything but goodwill – existing and potential customers are being treated as if they are less than mushrooms (it may be “BS” but at least mushrooms get fed).

While those Councillors and Senior Administrative Officers directly involved in the GESAC project oversight should be directly held accountable for an utter breakdown in communication and failed project delivery (on time is shot and under budget is beginning to look ill) they are not the only ones who should be held accountable.  There are 6* other Councillors (Hyams, Tang, Pilling, Forge, Penhalluriack and Lobo) who have unquestioningly accepted what was said/presented (despite residents objections) and who are still refraining from questioning.

* There is one possible exclusion to this 6 and that is Cr. Penhalluriack.  In July/August, 2011, Penhalluriack, in an open Council Meeting, criticised the presented Minutes of the Pools Steering Committee (PSC) as being headings only and, therefore, uninformative.  Penhalluriack also went on to say that his repeated requests to exercise his right as a Cr. to attend PSC meetings, as an observer, had been thwarted by receiving notifications of PSC Meetings after the meeting was held.   Since July/August, 2011, Cr. Penhalluriack has not raised any GESAC issues in open Council Meetings.

Footnote:  Council’s, GESAC’s website and GESAC Facebook page were last updated on 27/28th March, 2012.

GESAC – Another Failure

Another Council Meeting has come and gone (10th April, 2012) without any meaningful discussion on GESAC progress and no opening date being announced.  Not even the loose leaf insertion of the Pools Steering Committee (PSC) Meeting minutes of the 8th March, 2012.

20 days to go till the end of April, 2012, and an actual day date is not announced – the nebulous “by end of April” remains.

GESAC was only mentioned twice during last night’s meeting:

  1. Cr. Tang commented on the negative impact of lost GERA revenue when discussing the Financial Report for the Period Ending 29th February, 2012 (section 9.10 on the agenda, page 6 of the Financial Report).    Cr. Tang pointed out that the reported $1.7m lost GESAC revenue was offset by reduced operating costs due to GESAC not being open.  That Cr. Tang did not quantify the reduced operating costs is an omission that (as mentioned in our previous 28thMarch posting) raises some serious issues re open, transparent and accountable governance due to limited information being presented:
    1. what is included in “income expected from GESAC” when “GESAC Consulting Suite income” is treated as a separate item.
    2. if the budget includes cumulative lost revenue of $1.7m that is offset by a “GESAC delays in recruitment” cumulative saving of $0.95m then questions of the financial success of GESAC should be being asked.  GERA estimates running costs of GESAC (interest on loans, hire purchase agreements, insurances, utility charges, pool chemicals and other consumable supplies etc. etc.) will likely exceed the approximate $0.8 million difference between the two presented figures. 

2.    A public question was raised by a resident.  Council’s response to  the resident, as read by the Mayor, is summarised as follows

    1. GESAC opening will not be staged – all facilities will be available for use
    2. GESAC will open at the end of April, 2012, on “practical completion”.    (GERA comment – could this be interpreted as “pointing the finger” at the builder and makes GERA wonder if the builder and Council are communicating)
    3. no information on tasks outstanding or their timeline for completion was given.

If Council is as on top of GESAC as it claims to be then GERA is at loss to explain

  • Why Council has only raised GESAC as public agenda item once in 2012 (at the 28th February, 2012 meeting)
  • Why no Councillor raised the GESAC opening date issue at last night’s meeting (in response to residents/ratepayers and GESAC members clearly expressed angst, they should be publicly demanding information and a definitive opening date)
  • Why no Councillor has asked questions on the budgeted and actual GESAC figures. (Councillors have a legal fiduciary duty).

The persistent failure of Council (Councillors and the Administration) to provide any meaningful information on GESAC

  • does not hold much promise for an end April GESAC opening, and
  • does not show any regard for residents/ratepayers and GESAC members concerns.

GESAC – FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE

This afternoon the Agenda for next Council Meeting (10th April, 2012) was made available on Council’s website.

As a follow up on our previous two posts on the woeful way Council is reporting continuing delays in GESAC opening, it is worth noting that this Agenda DOES NOT include any mention of a GESAC opening date or a Pools Steering Committee (GESAC) Update.

Please note that the first 2012 meeting of the Pools Steering Committee (PSC) was held on 9th February and the minutes (as uninformative as usual) appeared in the Minutes of the Council Meeting of 28th February, 2012, (Section 8.a.iii).    These PSC minutes advise that the next PSC meeting would be held on 8th March, 2012.

The 8th March PSC meeting minutes were not presented at the 20th March, 2012 Council Meeting despite there being ample time to include them.   Local law requires committee meeting minutes be presented at the next “appropriate” Council Meeting. If the 20th March meeting was deemed inappropriate, why aren’t the PSC 8th March minutes included Agenda for the 10th April.

Given, the cost of the project, the problems GESAC is facing, the continual delays and the impact on Council’s finances (cumulative lost revenue as at the end of February, 2012, is $1.7m* and growing), Council (Councillors and Administrators) should be all over GESAC.  The PSC should be meeting a lot more than once per month and Council should be actively keeping residents fully informed.

Instead, of being fully informed, since the 20th March Council Meeting we get the following

  •  On 27th March Newton indicates an April, 2012 opening date
  • On 2nd April, 2012, a Bayside Weekly article, states “ while the council was pressing to have the centre open by the end of April, Cr Lipshutz (Chairman of the Pools Steering Committee) said progress was ‘‘in the hands of the builder’’.  A fair interpretation is we don’t know.
  • No mention of GESAC in the Agenda for 10th April.

In all probability, and as has frequently happened in the past, the PSC 8th March Minutes (and perhaps the early April meeting) will be loosely inserted in the Council Agenda moments before the meeting.  A “clerical oversight” explanation is not acceptable – Council should be actively ensuring residents are presented with the information in the agenda so that residents rights to ask pertinent public questions are preserved.  (Public questions must be submitted before noon on the day of the meeting to ensure the questions are included in the meeting – the questions and responses are recorded in the meeting minutes).

Council’s communications failure on GESAC is deplorable and is not good governance – its not open, its not transparent and its definitely not accountable.  Additionally,  it does not treat residents and/or GESAC members with respect.

* Agenda Item 9.10 – Financial Report, page 6 – Lost GESAC revenue $1.66m + lost GESAC consulting suite income $54K