On August 13, 2021,The Wombat Post  posed the question, “The Inspectorate Report – How Long is Too Long?”

Nearly 12 months later, and with no answer, it is time to ask again – and to keep asking – until the residents of Hepburn Shire receive the information they deserve.

Early in 2019, the then Hepburn Shire CEO, Evan King, contacted the Local Government Inspectorate in relation to the purchase and proposed refurbishment of “The Rex”. The Inspectorate had meetings with the CEO and then Mayor, Cr Don Henderson, in May.

On July 23 and 24, 2019, the Inspectorate visited Council offices as part of their investigation. We then started counting the days while we awaited the outcome of the report. It has been 1104 days since the LGI returned to Melbourne to write their report.

In June 2021,Steve Pogonowski, Senior Communications Adviser for the Local Government Inspectorate (LGI), advised The Wombat Post that the Inspectorate had completed a draft report, which, as part of the Inspectorate’s process was circulated for comment to key stakeholders, including parties named in the report. Recipients were allowed a few weeks to respond.

Those who have seen the draft report are bound by a strict confidentiality agreement. Our requests about the release of the report have elicited vague, unsatisfactory responses to the effect that “The Inspecorate is finalising its report.”

It is inconceivable that after 1104 days, the Inspectorate is still “finalising” the report. Why isn’t the report being released?

Apparently, the LGI is not covered by parliamentary privilege afforded to parliamentary proceedings and some parliamentary committees. Therefore, it must either receive protection from possible prosecution from the attorney general/Minister of Local Govenrment or run the risk of litigation from anyone named in the report.

If this is the cause of the delay government ministers must act to facilitate the immediate release of the report.

Next month, Council may make a decision on the sale of the Rex. It is unlikely that the Inspectorate report will in any way alter the decision of Council because it covers only the early decisions that were made in the Hepburn Hub at the Rex project. There were other, later decisions which, with hindsight, may have been ill advised.

Nevertheless, our Council and our community deserve to know how this fiasco developed.

The Wombat Post intends to continue its campaign for the release of the report. We will seek responses from the Local Government Inspectorate, the Hon Melissa Horne MP, Minister for Local Government; the Hon Jaclyn Symes MLC, Attourney General; and the Hon. Mary-Anne Thomas MP, our local member. The Report should provide fundamental information that will allow the community and Council to make informed decisions about the future of the Rex project and local government governance and processes.