MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire is pressing ahead with investigating a publicly accessible online “transparency and integrity hub” that could cost $200,000 to $350,000.
The “selected council data, stories, reports, and curated information” available on the hub follows council’s below average results from last year’s community satisfaction survey.
A report to councillors by customer and transformation manager Patrick Dillon said data on the transparency and integrity hub “may” also include “detailed financial records from the council and its stakeholders; asset management data (the shire’s capital works program); procurement data, and more”.
“This online hub will allow visitors to explore and visualise data, providing an overview of the shire’s decision-making and activities,” Dillon said in his report to council’s 19 December public meeting.
“This will require the procurement of a suitable web-based platform to publish these datasets for open consumption. It will also require the collection, cleansing and curation of each dataset to ensure it is accurate and ready for release.”
However, councillors have also ordered a report on finding a “low cost alternative” to the $200,000 to $350,000 hub “for the implementation of transparency and integrity”.
The latest effort by councillors to achieve “transparency” comes at a time when they are being criticised for negotiating a deal in secret to allow The Briars wildlife sanctuary to be used for a light show performance of Harry Potter (Thumbs down for Potter performance, The News 9/1/2024, Letters Page).
Cr Sarah Race, who successfully moved for a report into the implementation of the transparency and Integrity hub by March, said transparency, integrity and open government had been discussed “throughout this council term”.
“Despite several attempts we haven’t yet found models that align with our aspirations for transparency,” she said.
The hub, a “ground breaking initiative” could “redefine” the council’s relationship with the community.
Trust levels between government organisations and community were declining around the world.
“Rebuilding this trust requires public officials, us, to follow ethical standards and be open about our behaviour and decision making.”
Cr Susan Bissinger said the recent realisation among councillors that transparency was crucial marked “a significant step forward”.
“Our community doesn’t need selective council data, stories, reports and curated information, they want transparency,” she said.
“Transparency shouldn’t be about storytelling; it’s about making unaltered information easily accessible to everyone.
“We need to explore cost effective models rather than adopting an expensive ready-made solution, we need to be both practical and fiscally responsible.
“it’s just a matter of not hiding stuff. That’s what transparency is. And that’s what we’ve got to make sure we do well, that’s what are community wants.”
Cr Despi O’Connor said storytelling on the hub was “not about making things up, it’s actually about bringing people on the journey with us, because a lot of the information is really hard to understand”.
Cr David Gill said the “cheaper way would have been to agree to having our briefings elaborated on or open to the public or online”.
The hub recommended by shire officers was expensive because it offered public access to data that would be selected, curated, and cleansed.
“To just put up one proposal and not look at the whole way that this council operates is very short sighted,” Gill said.