'Secret' charges helped sink Coast life guard service

The Sunshine Coast Council Life Guard service was hit with unexplained internal fees by council.
The Sunshine Coast Council Life Guard service was hit with unexplained internal fees by council. Brett Wortman

SUNSHINE Coast Council has failed to release detail of how indirect internal charges levied against its life guard service jumped from $400,000 to $1.4 million during a period its future was under review.

The council controversially offloaded the 40-year service to a commercial arm of Surf Life Saving Queensland, awarding it a contract potentially worth more than $50 million without going to tender.

More than 5000 people signed a petition calling for the decision to be reconsidered.

Repeated attempts through the mayor's office to get bureaucrats to provide the itemised detail of internal charges levied against the service during the past four years have failed to elicit an answer.

The Sunshine Coast Daily revealed on September 1 that corporate overheads levied against the life guard service amounted to $14,000 for each of the 100 full-time, part-time and casual employees who patrol our beaches.

The post-amalgamation overheads for payroll, human resources, finance and IT added $1.41 million to the cost of the service in 2011-12 and was the biggest contributor to the costs blowing out by nearly $1.75 million in just three years.

However, officers remain reluctant to itemise the charge and apply a dollar value to each of the internal services provided.

"Indirect internal charges" against the life guard service rose from $439,674 in 2008-09 to $1.41 million in 2011-12."

The nearly $1 million increase was listed but left unexplained in the Sunshine Coast Lifeguard Service Plan 2012-13 that informed the internal council review which led to the decision to hand the service over to the Australian Life Guard Service.

The plan noted that "over the past three-year period there has been an average annual increase of 6.6% to the operation cost of the life guard service".

"While there has been a small increase in service levels over this period, the increases are largely due to wage rises and increases in operating costs," the report states.

In fact the largest impact came from the "indirect internal charges" which accounted for $971,263 of the $1,737,420 increase in the cost of the service from 2008-9 to 2011-12.

Topics:  council, lifeguard, life guards



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