WA budgets continue to improve

Western Australia's annual review of municipal budgets has resulted in five Councils receiving Certificates of Excellence for ratings of over 94%. This review is carried out by the Department of Local Government. Another 20 Councils received the Minister's Certificate of Merit for ratings of over 91%.

Local Government Minister Paul Omodei said the Department assessed 144 budgets for their level of compliance with legislative requirements, general presentation and provision of information to the reader. The Department found the standard of budget reporting has improved to the extent that the minimum standard has been raised from 75% to 81%.

In spite of the raised standard, 57 % of budgets exceeded the standard this year. This compares to 27% in 1995/96, the first year these reviews were carried out, when the minimum standard was set at 65%. Councils which received Certificates of Excellence were the Shires of Shark Bay and Ashburton, the Towns of Victoria Park and Vincent and the City of Bunbury.

Of these, Bunbury and Ashburton have significantly raised their standard. Neither has won an award before. Ashburton Accountant, Kay Chambers, said Ashburton's 1998/9 budget document was better set out, supplied more information, and provided that additional information in a very 'user friendly' format.

"We made these changes to achieve a more meaningful document," she said. "In addition, we had to design an Access database to produce the budget as we were implementing a new financial system. "This enabled us to ensure the information was presented in the best possible format."

Kay said the budget review process is an incentive to excel. She said winning the certificate affirmed that the document was accurate, well presented and enabled more ratepayers to understand it.

As the standard of budgets continues to improve, the Department has increased its focus on notes, overall presentation, ease of use and level of information.

The Department believes further improvements could be made in areas such as Informative Introduction, Disclosure of Capital Works, Note References and Indexing and Principal Activity Plans.