Welcome to the Autumn/April 2020 Focus on Finance Newsletter, keeping our members informed on the current financial issues affecting Local Government.
The sole purpose of this newsletter is to provide information to members. The contents of the newsletter are limited to that purpose and should not be taken as advice on finance, management or the law. All material contained in the newsletter is subject to copyright of the various authors who contribute to it. Contents of this newsletter may be reproduced in whole or in part only with the prior permission of the South Australian Local Government Financial Management Group who will, where required, seek appropriate permissions from copyright owners or rights holders. The South Australian Local Government Financial Management Group accepts no liability or responsibility whatsoever for or in respect of any use of or reliance on the newsletter by any party. Information contained in this newsletter has partly been provided by third parties. The South Australian Local Government Financial Management Group does not guarantee the information. All interested parties should make their own enquiries to verify the information and to satisfy themselves in all respects.
Welcome to our Autumn Newsletter, which I hope finds you all safe and well. While we are all distracted with the ever changing impacts of COVID-19, and trying to plan and safeguard our families, it is also a busy time for us as finance professionals, with Budget and Annual Plan processes in full swing.
We held our two-day conference and workshop “Back to the Future” in early December, 2019 which was also a celebration of 30 years of the SALGFMG. Henry Olonga provided the evening dinner entertainment. Paul Barry was the conference Keynote speaker and had the audience enthralled with his insights of the media industry, as well as the personal risk that many journalists can face.
Over recent months, we have been planning for our May conference, which has now been postponed, and we hope that it will be able to be held together with our AGM in August 2020. The timing will, of course, be dependent on further COVID-19 developments and Federal and State Government responses.
To keep this as much “business as usual” as possible, the FMG executive has implemented virtual meeting technology to assist us in undertaking our monthly Executive meetings. During the physical isolation that is required at present we will be using this technology to support work group meetings as needed. So while we are adapting and doing things differently there is still the opportunity to participate in work groups and network. If you are interested in joining any of the work groups, details are on our website, and it is as simple as contacting the relevant Chair.
In closing, I wish to thank our loyal sponsors whose ongoing support enable us to provide such a strong advocacy role in the industry and enable valuable professional development for our members. I encourage you to support our sponsors whenever you are in the market for goods or services which they provide.
Stay safe and stay connected.
30 September 2019 – 31 May 2020
A Council or subsidiary must at least twice consider a report showing a revised forecast of its operating and capital investment activities for the relevant financial year compared with the estimates for those activities set out in the budget in a manner consistent with the note in the Model Financial Statements entitled Uniform Presentation of Finances.
30 November 2019 – 15 March 2020
A Council must consider a report showing a revised forecast of each item shown in its budgeted financial statements for the relevant financial year compared with the estimates set out in the budget presented in a manner consistent with the Model Financial Statements.
The report must also include revised forecasts for the relevant financial year of the Council’s operating surplus ratio, net financial liabilities ratio and asset sustainability ratio compared with estimates set out in the budget presented in a manner consistent with the note in the Model Financial Statements entitled Financial Indicators.
31 January 2020
SALGFMG Meeting, 9:30 am, City of Port Adelaide Enfield.
28 February 2020
SALGFMG Meeting, 9:30 am, City of Burnside.
27 March 2020 (Video Conferencing)
SALGFMG Meeting, 9:30 am, City of Mitcham.
31 March 2020
End of Fringe Benefit Tax year.
Ensure that log books, declarations and other required documentation are completed by employees.
24 April 2020 (Video Conferencing)
SALGFMG Meeting, 9:30 am, Town of Walkerville.
15 May 2020 – Deferred / TBA
SALGFMG Conference, Adelaide Convention Centre.
21 May 2020
Last day to lodge Fringe Benefit Tax returns.
29 May 2020 (Video Conferencing)
SALGFMG Meeting, 9:30 am, City of Charles Sturt.
1 June 2020
Earliest date for a Council to adopt an Annual Business Plan and Budget which must be adopted for the ensuing financial year.
26 June 2020 (Video Conferencing)
SALGFMG Meeting, 9:30 am, City of Prospect.
30 June 2020
Review of internal controls completed for 2019/20.
End of the 2019/20 Financial Year.
31 July 2020
SALGFMG Meeting, 9:30 am, Mount Barker District Council.
Early August 2020
Grants Commission Returns released for completion and return by 30 November.
28 August 2020
SALGFMG Breakfast & Conference, 7.30am, venue TBC.
30 August 2020
Last day for adoption of an annual business plan and budget.
31 August 2020
Last date for declaring a general rate.
11 September 2020
Last date that the 2019/20 financial statements, notes and other financial material must be prepared by a Council.
The Chief Executive Officer and Presiding Member of a Council Audit Committee to provide Certificates of Independence with the financial statements.
25 September 2020
SALGFMG Meeting, 9:30 am, Alexandrina Council.
26 & 27 November 2020
SALGFMG Workshop and Conference at the Adelaide Convention Centre.
30 November 2020
Last date that audited 2019/20 financial statements must be submitted to the Minister and the SA Local Government Grants Commission.
31 December 2020
Last date that a Council must prepare and consider a report showing the audited financial results of the Council for the previous financial year compared with the estimated financial results set out in the budget presented in a manner consistent with the Model Financial Statements.
Further information for many of the key dates can be sourced via the LGA website: www.lga.sa.gov.au. You will need a members login to access the key dates calendar. Further information can also be sourced from the Local Government (Financial Management) Regulations 2011.
Datacom’s local government business continues to grow with Wattle Range Council adopting Datascape, an innovative cloud-based system aimed at delivering better council services to 12,000 residents in the region.
“Wattle Range Council is extremely excited to have partnered with Datacom for the provision of its new enterprise software management system”, said Council Chief Executive Officer, Ben Gower, recently.
“One of Datascape’s standout features is being designed around the customer with modern interfaces that enable our community to interact with the Council on any matter, from any device, and from anywhere they can get an internet connection”, he added.
“Behind the scenes, automated workflows will process information in an effective and consistent way to ensure requests are dealt with quickly and efficiently, alongside customers being kept informed of progress.”
Mr Gower said Datascape will also free Council staff up to spend more time focussing on customers’ needs, rather than time-consuming paperwork and red tape.
“Additionally, enhanced data analytics will also enable Council to monitor and measure a range of key performance indicators to enhance decision-making and foster a culture of continuous improvement. All of this is a fully integrated, mobile, software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform. We can’t wait to come out of the shadows and into the light”, said Mr Gower.
Datascape is a SaaS enterprise resource planning (ERP) system designed specifically for managing the complexities local governments deal with on a day-to-day basis.
The suite includes applications to manage customer relationships (CRM), financials, properties and ratings, regulatory activities, HR and payroll activities and several digital services.
Also included in Datascape is the Antenno mobile app, which aims to improve council connections with people in their communities. It will be available free to all Wattle Range residents this year.
From the outset, Wattle Range took a strategic approach when analysing its own organisational needs without becoming mired in excessive details or losing strategic perspective.
“Wattle Range really put in a lot of work ahead of the tender process and struck the right balance in defining its high-level requirements. The Council’s focus on supporting internal business processes, preference for digital services, cloud delivery, mobility and active directory integration really demonstrated the forward-thinking nature of the organisation”, Mark Matijevic, Datacom’s Director Local Government Solutions, said.
“These very modern strategic objectives meshed perfectly with Datacom and our Local Government solution offering. Wattle Range Council’s like-minded approach to technology and its role in servicing the community has made for the beginnings of a very strong partnership.”
The Council will be able to send alerts and notifications to residents, as well as receive feedback from members of the community, encouraging active participation in decision-making and real-time interactions.
Commenting on the news, Mark Matijevic also stated “from day one, Wattle Range Council struck me as an innovative team with a clear commitment to community outcomes and improving resident satisfaction.”
“Implementing Datascape and Antenno provides the Council with the tools to help them to not only achieve their engagement goals but future-proof their digital infrastructure.”
“Their leadership team also have a strong desire to make robust decisions based on quality data and analysis. Datascape will assist significantly with this and we’re looking forward to helping Wattle Range uncover new insights from their wealth of existing and future data.”
Mr Matijevic added “we are working closely with councils throughout Australasia to understand their needs and what continued success in a local government context looks like. This rich insight benefits all Datascape customers and positions us to deliver real and measurable outcomes for their organisations, regardless of whether they’re choosing specific Datascape features or adopting the full ERP suite.”
This deal with Wattle Range is another example of how Datacom is using technology to build connected communities and expands a growing customer base for Datascape.
The Shire of Manjimup, in the south-west region of Western Australia and 320kms south of Perth, implemented Datascape earlier in 2019 to bring together digital council services and back-office applications under one roof.
For further information, please contact Vincent Bentley:
If 2020 has revealed anything, it has shown us how a few unexpected events can change our world in an instant with many workforces wanting or needing to self-isolate during this pandemic. This uncertain future may force you to evaluate how your organisation operates and decide if your current processes are sustainable in the long term. Australian organisations, public and private, of all sizes and industries are revisiting and setting new goals and there is a clear trend for forward-thinking organisations to move away from traditional office buildings to a ‘Platform economy’. The technology for virtual collaboration to move to a Platform economy already exists and you’re probably already using it.
What is the Platform economy? This is any kind of digital platform that uses the internet to connect remote networks of individuals to communicate and operate in a secure environment, and this in turn has made it increasingly attractive to move to a remote workforce model.
The cost savings of letting your employees work from home are too great to ignore and, in the future, it may be a necessity, and will only grow in popularity regardless, as the millennial workers make up a bigger part of your workforce. Whether you want to admit it or not your organisation will save big by having part or all of your employees based in their homes.
Think about the physical office space. You could down-size your current office space and focus on conference meeting rooms and client experience lounges or you can increase your staff capacity without having to move to bigger premises. Staff parking, electricity, heating, office supplies, furniture, staff amenities – all these costs can be reduced to minimum and you can reinvest that into the more important aspects of your organisation.
Another cost saving can be found in increased staff retention. Working from home creates a happier, more productive workforce when you use smart technology to improve your internal communication and workflows. If these processes are not in place soon you could find that your main services may need to close down as workers are quarantined or schools are closed with parents forced to stay home without any childcare options. Can you survive?
Which model is the best? That really depends on your organisation. You may still need to have personnel on the ground to greet clients, receive or pack inventory and facilitate meetings, but you can’t ignore the fact that you can’t action any of these changes unless your IT systems are sufficient and maintained optimally.
So, let’s look at your IT. Are you still hiring an in-house IT tech? Regardless of your organisation’s size, relying on one person, or a small team, is a risk that you can’t afford to take in this current climate, especially. And, if you’re moving, or even thinking of moving, to a remote workforce model using a technology platform, then the days of in-house tech support are well and truly over for you. The emergence and popularity of using an outsourced IT managed services provider to manage your IT ensures you have the skill, up-to-date knowledge and expertise in business IT strategy that will give you competitive advantage and security.
You must choose a proactive IT managed services provider that takes the time to understand your organisation’s needs and listens to you. They can not only reduce your overall IT costs but will also minimise risk and give you the peace of mind that all your compliance and IT security protocols are up-to-date and meet current legislation. The decision of taking risks relating to IT technologies is greatly reduced. This is because they already have the skill, knowledge and expertise to advise you on what is best for your organisation and can consult with you about how to use technology to improve your bottom line. With a larger pool of resources and experience to draw from you can complete projects faster and implement new smart technologies safely.
Now is the time to look at your organisation and start considering how your workforce is going to change in the future to keep you moving forward on a Platform economy and to weather the storms in these times of unforeseen crises. Find a trusted IT managed services provider who can partner with you on your journey.
For more information, please contact Christine Curren, General Manager, Control Z:
Phone Direct: 08 8166 7514
Work Group Updates
Work Groups are formed to assist the Executive Committee to work on specific issues that are of interest or are topical to finance staff in Councils.
Further information on the work groups is available from the Executive Committee minutes where updates are provided each meeting.
The Asset Management workgroup has been given the opportunity to provide comments on the AASB13 Fair Value Measurement for Not for Profit exposure draft. The exposure draft is designed to make it easier to understand AASB13 and to provide more working examples. This will see, among other things, land being valued using a cost approach with no discount at highest and best use. At this stage, it is unclear when the exposure draft will be adopted. However, Councils will have two years to implement changes once it has been approved.
As a result of a survey completed earlier in the year, a grant was sought through the Local Government Research and Development Scheme. As a result, funding has been approved for a project to assist Councils to better understand their Asset Management Plan requirements and to improve the sector’s asset sustainability ratio. The project will be managed by the LGA Secretariat to produce:
Alex Oulianoff, Mount Barker District Council:
Kate George, City of Salisbury:
In October 2019, the ATO released the first GST class ruling for Local Government in SA, CR 2019-61. The Class Ruling can now be relied upon by all SA Councils to ensure the correct GST treatment is applied to fees and charges.
The Fees and Charges workgroup continue to work with BDO to progress the second class ruling which will cover the remaining fees and charges.
Elizabeth Williams, Alexandrina Council:
As part of the Financial Sustainability Program, the LGA provides a series of information papers to assist Councils, Elected Members, staff and a resource for the general public and students of Local Government. A regular review is required to ensure alignment with current legislation and best practice. Over the last few months, the LGA and Financial Management Group Committee members reviewed and updated 9 information papers. Another 8 are re-drafted and are scheduled to be finalised in early 2020. The remaining 4 papers have been held back due to their subject matter being related to the State Government Local Government reform(s) currently underway. See link: www.lga.sa.gov.au/fsp
Early in 2020, the workgroup will be reviewing the 2019/20 draft Model Financial Statements. All suggestions for improvement and feedback on the document are welcome as its usefulness increases with our collective input. The review will also consider the application of accounting standards as relevant for this year.
Mark Lague, The Barossa Council:
Chris Birch, City of Prospect:
Kate George, City of Salisbury:
Kate George, City of Salisbury:
In this current financial year, both the first (Summer) and second (Autumn) e-newsletter editions have been completed and distributed to members.
This Group has focussed on revisiting the Memorandum of Understanding between the LGA and the Value-General. Feedback has been compiled from the group with representatives for the LGA, RPSA and FMG scheduled to meet in January 2020 to formalise a response to the Valuer-General with a view to update the agreement early in the 2020 calendar year. The Group has also provided feedback to the LGA in relation to its recently developed Hardship Policy Guidelines.
The User Group has focussed on testing and understanding what is scheduled for future releases. In regards to the finance related area, the scheduled updates are:
Internal Vs External Audit
External Auditors, Internal Controls Opinion, Internal Auditors, Better Practice Model - confused?
What is the difference between your External Auditors and the Internal Audit Function? If your External Auditors are providing an Internal Controls Opinion, do you need an Internal Audit Function?
These are all very valid questions and if you are confused you probably aren’t alone. So, let’s try to unpack this.
Better Practice Model. This model is a framework of financial risks and relevant controls to reduce the likelihood and consequence of these risks occurring. It is important to remember that only financial related risks have been considered in this framework. All other areas of Council activities and associated risks are not really covered; such as Strategic Planning, Community, Public Safety, WHS, General Compliance.
External vs Internal Audit. The table below summarises the key differences between the two areas; the roles are different but complementary:
You can get more information from the Institute of Internal Auditors Australia’s website: https://iia.org.au/
Internal Audit has significant scope to assist your Council in identifying issues and working towards improvement. To give you some ideas, we have undertaken the following Internal Audit Projects:
For more information, please contact Corinne Garrett:
Mobile: 0418 857 499
Direct Phone: 8110 0922
Leave loading and the SG Amnesty –
what you need to know
The Government’s Superannuation Guarantee (SG) Amnesty provides employers with a unique opportunity - the option to rectify any superannuation shortfalls that have occurred since the introduction of the SG regime in July 1992 right up to 31 March 2018 (being the quarter before the original announcement on 24 May 2018).
Employers are obligated to keep records for 5 years. The ATO suggests that employers should focus any internal review over this period unless their records and systems permit a greater period of time. It is important to note, however, that the ATO is not limited to 5 years in the event of an SG Assessment.
Whether the shortfall was intentional or not, the Amnesty enables eligible employers to report the amount of the shortfall (using the approved SG Amnesty form) and pay the amount calculated without incurring the administration fee of $20 per employee, per quarter or the Part 7 penalty. To ensure relief from the 200% Part 7 penalty, and claim a tax deduction, the Superannuation Guarantee Charge (SGC) must be paid in full prior to the end of the amnesty period – 7 September 2020.
Leave loading considerations
Prior to the release of the Superannuation Guarantee Ruling SGR 2009/2 Superannuation guarantee: meaning of the terms ‘ordinary time earnings’ and ‘salary or wages’, the ATO considered that leave loading was not earnings in respect of ordinary hours of work. The Ruling amended the Commissioner’s view to expressly include leave loading in the definition of ordinary times earnings (OTE). The only exception to this being where the leave loading was referred to under some awards and industrial agreements to compensate workers for a notional loss of the opportunity to work overtime.
The ATO’s position on this issue has not changed. However, in March 2019, the ATO website was updated1 to reinforce the limited circumstances in which leave loading is not considered to form part of an employee’s OTE. The website acknowledges that there has been uncertainty for employers in applying the view expressed in paragraph 238 of the ruling. In particular, the requirement for the award or agreement to provide a specific reference to overtime (“demonstrably referable”) as most awards do not specifically mention the reason for the leave loading.
This means that unless there is written evidence to confirm that the annual leave loading is to compensate the employee for the potential loss of overtime, then superannuation guarantee is payable on the leave loading component.
There is the potential for a shortfall to have occurred as a result of change of view in 2009 after the release of the SG ruling or because of a misinterpretation of the ruling until March 2019. From a compliance perspective, the ATO do not intend to allocate any compliance resources provided that:
It is important to note that the Amnesty does not cover any shortfalls that may have occurred since 1 April 2018.
In closing, Employers need to act quickly if they intend to take advantage of the amnesty and the concessions it offers. Following the introduction of Single Touch Payroll (STP), superannuation is more visible to the ATO than ever. Should a shortfall be identified during a superannuation guarantee review or audit, there will be less opportunities for the Commissioner to remit any of the penalties imposed on employers after the end of the Amnesty period.
The contents of this article are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought before taking any action based on this article.
For more information please contact: Shari Neagle, Director of Superannuation Services, Bentleys SA
As everyone would be acutely aware, all communities and economies are being severely disrupted by the spreading of the Coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic across the world. While still currently evolving on a day by day basis, this threat has required remedial actions to be implemented swiftly and urgently across all levels – government, business and personal. The SALGFMG world is no different.
In order to comply with specific legislation and health directives, the Events Workgroup has, therefore, decided to defer the May conference to a later date, should this be a viable possibility. While disappointing, this is both a responsible and caring decision.
In the interim, we must all focus on committing our total resources to, and will all be very busy in mitigating the adverse impacts of, this serious pandemic.
We wish all our members the very best in their endeavours to overcome this serious challenge and look forward to getting back to some normality in the months ahead. Stay strong, stay connected with your peers (but at a distance) and, working together, we will get through this.
Financial Market Conditions
Global financial markets experienced high levels of volatility over the past month as nations continued to grapple with the public health crisis and economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is now affecting most countries around the world with the total infected over 1.5 million confirmed cases worldwide. Cases of the virus have stabilised in China and it is now the US, Spain and Italy were infection rates continue to climb. While not a lot of substantial data has been released since the declaration of a pandemic in early March, it seems clear that the self-isolation that is being forced on some and chosen by others is having a massive dampening effect on the global economy. This unprecedented world health crisis has resulted in co-ordinated stimulatory responses by central banks and governments around the world.
In mid-March the US Federal Reserve cut their reserve rate by 1% and are now targeting a rate of between 0-0.25% and at the same meeting committed to a $700 billion quantitative easing program. Although many believe the US took too long to respond to the public health crisis, in late March President Trump signed off on a $2 trillion stimulus package in an effort to insulate the US economy from the impacts of the virus. This coordinated action was replicated by central banks and governments around the globe and somewhat stabilised the freefall that was seen on global equity markets. Global bond markets have also been extremely volatile over the past month as markets had to digest the potential of a deep global recession, the commencement or re-commencement of quantitative easing around the world as well as the need for governments to issue large amounts of debt into markets to provide the needed stimulus.
Australian financial markets also experienced high levels of volatility associated with the economic impact of the coronavirus. In a coordinated effort, the Reserve Bank of Australia cut the official cash rate twice and announced other stimulatory measures including a massive $192 billion stimulus package. The coordinated response by the RBA and the Government created some stability in financial markets. However, the damage was already done highlighted by the ASX 200 falling over 21% over the course of the month. The Australian dollar fell from around $0.65 USD to $0.60 USD over the course of the month as investors repatriated funds back to US dollar assets.
On 3 March 2020, the RBA met and cut Australia’s official cash rate by 0.25% to a historic low of 0.5%. In the accompanying statement, Governor Lowe stated that the board decided to cut the rate to support the economy as it responds to the global coronavirus outbreak and noted that several other countries have also enacted or were about to enact such policy measures. On 18 March 2020, the RBA met again at an emergency meeting and cut the official cash rate by a further 0.25% to 0.25%, committed to buy 3-year Australian government bonds at a rate of 0.25% (a process known as quantitative easing) and implemented a huge securitisation program, partnering with Australian banks to support lending to corporations affected by the economic slowdown created by the pandemic. These emergency measures are all designed to help stimulate the economy by ensuring that individuals and corporations alike have access to liquidity and loan funds during these unprecedented times. Interest rates futures pricing suggests that the official cash rate will remain at 0.25% for the foreseeable future.
Implied RBA Cash rate as at 31/03/2020:
For further information please contact: Local Government Finance Authority.
I started working in local government in 2016 when I landed a job as a Cadet Accountant at the Mount Barker District Council, whilst I was halfway through a combined Business Management/Accounting degree. I’d never even considered working in local government, but I saw the job ad and thought why not apply for it – I might as well get some experience in the field whilst studying. Previously, I had spent 10 years working across several Foodland supermarkets, starting off as trolley collector/night fill assistant, working my way up to grocery manager of one of the busiest supermarkets in South Australia.
When I started with Council, I wasn’t really sure what they did. I mean, I know they picked up rubbish, managed dogs and looked after parks and reserves. It didn’t take me too long to find out just how much more Councils are responsible for and how they aim to achieve great outcomes for the community.
As part of a small finance team, I’ve been exposed to many different tasks and responsibilities during my time with Council. From preparing monthly and annual financial reports and assisting with the budget process, to estimating the average life of a dog (and associated revenue impacts) and calculating the cost of maintaining a hectare of open space. Even approaching 4 years here, I’m still learning something new almost every day.
I joined the FMG soon after I joined Council in 2016 and value the opportunities that the conferences and workshops provide, not only for networking but also to keep up to date with the changes and important issues facing Councils in South Australia & particularly the implications from a finance perspective. I have also just completed the Emerging Leaders Program facilitated by LG Professionals SA and I am currently studying towards obtaining my CPA and looking forward to future challenges and opportunities that come with working in local government.
When I’m not at work, you’ll probably find me at the gym, studying, catching up with friends and family or just enjoying the outdoors.
PO Box 255 Smithfield SA 5114
Tel: 0408 801 026