An interesting use for ratepayer funds *UPDATED

**UPDATE: The council has responded to this opinion piece and their response is in full is at the bottom.

There is probably a valid reason for the Waipa District Council logo to appear to be wearing a clown hat, given the antics of their CEO and CFO.

Where is Waipa I hear you ask? Google, as always, has the answer.

Waipa district is that impoverished piece of the country where huge swathes of productive Waikato dairying land can be found. Oh, and quite a few of the top horse stud breeding stables. Clearly a pretty impoverished part of New Zealand.

So what has the Waipa District Council been up to that has got our correspondent so upset?

E-bikes!

The CEO and CFO decided to provide interest free loans to staff so that the staff could purchase E-bikes. This decision was, apparently, not made by elected Council officials.

The ‘official’ reason given in the local paper, confirming the purchase of the E-bikes, was that they would save on car parks and improve staff health.

Our incensed local would like to know how this is possible when the item purchased is, in fact, a personal item, not identified with Council markings or part of the vehicle register. Additionally the staff who purchase a bike using this ratepayer-funded interest free loan scheme are not required to use the bike for their commute to the office.

The individuals themselves choose when and where they use their E-bike, or they may not use it at all; they might buy one for their nephew.

Since they are not ‘required’ to ride it each day, to improve their health and save a carpark, the public explanation sounds a tad disingenuous.

The Council are not providing staff with E-bikes, they are facilitating the purchasing of personal E-bikes by misusing public funds with interest free loans.

Our correspondent rightly points out that the Waipa ratepayers are suffering as a result of any and possibly all of the following: misapplication of funds; rates overcharging; and continued neglect of key infrastructure.

This, he rightly asserts, sets a very bad precedent for the following reasons:

  • Public funds are being used to buy Council staff personal items.
  • Council staff are already in many ways paid more than most out in the private sector, so if they are unable to purchase their own personal items then maybe they should not be buying them at all.
  • It also sends the wrong message to ratepayers that Council does not care about its ratepayers as the purchasing of personal items outweighs the maintenance of neglected infrastructure

He asks a valid question: What?s to stop Council in future paying for say a boat, car, or house for Council staff, again using the interest free scheme adopted here?

And being a thinking sort of person (typical Whaleoil reader) he points out some legal and tax implications:

  • While the Council Staff who have taken up the offer are paying off the interest-free loan, the E-bikes remain under the ownership of the Council and the public. Does this entitle the public to use these E-bikes?
  • While the interest free loan is being paid off the Council own the E-bikes. So this would imply that the E-bike is being used as a fringe benefit and GST has been paid.
  • So in the public interest how are the public to know whether these E-bikes are being used in accordance with the definition of a fringe benefit ? ie. only to and from work?

Clearly the Waipa District Council saw this as an opportunity for a touch of virtue signalling, but our correspondent says:

E-bikes are NOT environmentally friendly nor do they keep individuals healthy as they do most of the work themselves, it would be more appropriate to call an E-bike an L-bike (L for lazy). If it were ethical to use public funds as the Council did, it would be better to have purchased normal bikes as this would have been at a fraction of the purchase cost of an E-bike and more environmentally friendly. Also, the E-bike contains more toxic material than a normal bike. end quote.

His complaint to the Ombudsman has, to date, not born fruit. I am confident he will keep us appraised of the situation.

Disclaimer: WH and Mrs WH very much enjoy riding the cycleways on their E-bikes and have ridden most of the cycleways provided by Waipa District Council. ?The torque-assist bikes?we?own?definitely?do not do most of the work for us and provide no help at all above 27kph.?

UPDATE:?

7 February 2019
Whale Oil
By email : [email protected]
YOUR ARTICLE: ?AN INTERESTING USE FOR RATEPAYER FUNDS?, JANUARY 29, 2019


We act for Waipa District Council and refer you to this article on your website on 29
January 2019.
The article contains a number of incorrect and misleading statements which you have put in the public domain. In particular the article alleges misuse of funds and accuses the Chief Executive and Chief Financial Officer of making decisions without reference to Council. These statements are inaccurate. The Council considered the matter at
the Council meeting on 27 November 2018. The agenda and minutes of this meeting are publicly available. After the meeting the Council (via the Chief Executive) issued a media statement which clearly explains the decision made.

The facts are that:
? Any bikes or e-bikes purchased are purchased by staff and not by Council
? The bikes will be assets owned by staff not by Council
? Council resolved at the meeting to approve interest-free loan advances to any staff member who wished to purchase a bike or e-bike with certain conditions regarding the amount and repayment of such loans.
It is patently clear that there has been no misuse of Council funds. If you require copies of any of the material referred to Council is more than happy to provide it.

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