Take the train

I am not surprised train services on the Bendigo line are running backwards as far as performance is concerned.
The last time I spoke to our transport minister Jacinta Allan, she was catching a plane to Melbourne.
I would suspect Jacinta hasn’t got a clue what’s going on in the real world.
May I suggest she take the train service from Bendigo to Melbourne for two months, then she might get an idea of real life.

Peter Lesuey,
Kennington

 

Integrity questioned

Education minister James Merlino’s blind acceptance of his department’s bungled investigation of former Bendigo South East College principal Ernie Fleming is at best not surprising but at worst a sad reflection of the lack of scrutiny and accountability of faceless bureaucrats in Melbourne.
While being questioned last week in Bendigo, (Weekly, June 15) minister Merlino said “ensuring the integrity of our education system can have no limit” is unquestionable.
What should be his focus is the failure of the bungled, drawn out DET investigation and its lack of transparency and accountability.
If there was financial mismanagement the public and school community deserves to know.
How was it mismanaged, what amounts were involved and what processes should have been in place both by the school and the regional office in monitoring and avoiding mismanagement?
Were parent contributions for school fees involved? Only an independent review of the DET investigation can the community have confidence in the integrity of our education system right from the top.
The investigation of financial mismanagement and fraud by staff and contractors at Bendigo Health, including its former CEO, was made public.
Shouldn’t this apply to the DET investigation? DET should be releasing the investigators report, what was its conclusions?
It is believed they aren’t revealing this information because they found no mismanagement apart from two uninitialled payments out of 13,000 cash receipts.
The DET investigation and process has lacked integrity and fairness from the beginning and that lack of integrity comes from the faceless bureaucrats in Melbourne which undermines the hard work and commitment many dedicated principals, teachers and support staff put in every day to provide the best learning environment for our children.
The truth of what the investigation really found and its processes can only be known through an independent review of the BSE investigation.

Laurie Whelan,
Sedgwick

 

Deafblind awareness

I write from the not-for-profit group Able Australia to let readers know that Deafblind Awareness Week runs from June 24 – 30.
It’s a time to celebrate the deafblind community and a chance to ask people to help with this important cause.
At the current time 332,400 people across Australia are deafblind. They are challenged every single day.
People with deafblindness face astronomical challenges. Imagine what it might be like if you can’t see or hear.
At Able Australia we are constantly inspired by the resilience, strength and resourcefulness of deafblind clients.
We are appealing to the community to donate to our powerful cause. The reality is your dollar can make a very meaningful difference to the deafblind people we support.
It is estimated nine out of 10 people who are deafblind experience anxiety. Obviously living as a deafblind person can be a very isolating experience.
The supports and services Able Australia provides to this community helps break that isolation.
Whether it is the support of a communication guide, art therapy or annual deafblind camps, these activities are an opportunity for the deafblind community to come together.
We can all do more to support this community. I urge readers to please donate to our powerful cause.
To find out how to donate, just go to www.ableaustralia.org.au or call 1300 225 369.

Kate MacRae, CEO,
Able Australia

 

Yes Minister

“You cannot go too far in ensuring the integrity of our education system.”
So said education minister James Merlino during an interview related to the resignation of Ernie Fleming, as principal of Bendigo South East College (Bendigo Weekly, June 15).
Surely this statement is applauded by most and rightly so.
But, minister, this statement also raises many questions.
Minister, what is the department of education’s definition of integrity? It does not appear to include basic procedural fairness.
If there is no procedural fairness any finding after an inquiry is flawed and is simply a miscarriage of justice.
And why was Mr Fleming repeatedly denied access to his files, records and documents? Is it because the department lost or destroyed some of them during the investigation?
Another question minister, is why did it take 18 months to carry out an investigation of financial and conflict of interest processes that the department’s own periodic audits had previously checked, cleared and signed off?
How can a school that gets excellent student results and added millions of dollars in facilities within budget, be claimed to have financial mismanagement against those past cleared audit reports?
And why are there no rules or regulations regarding the process of an inquiry?
Mr Fleming’s lawyer described the process as a kangaroo court and stated that in his opinion the case would have been thrown out if heard in a law court or properly constituted tribunal.
Minister, why would the department tell the community Mr Fleming was on sick leave, refuse to acknowledge there was an investigation citing the need to protect employee privacy, and then in the last six weeks, provide the media with a running commentary about what was investigated?
And minister, how can the department ever claim that it understands integrity when it has no open rules and guidelines for its inquiries of principals and acts as the prosecutor, jury and judge? It is a process which prevents any possible scrutiny to assess fairness and justice.
Yes minister, in the absence of a transparent and fair process where the department decision makers are hidden from public view and are wholly unaccountable for their processes and decisions, I and hundreds of others would back the integrity of Ernie Fleming any day.

Phillip Ellison,
Kangaroo Flat

 

Different priorities

I welcome the improvement in the 2018 Greater Bendigo City Council Community Satisfaction Survey (CSS) results. There is still a way to go.
Council’s overall performance score was 59 out of 100; up from 2017’s 56; in 2012 and 2014 it was 63.
The research company that conducts the survey for councils and government notes that a score between 50–60 indicates, “performing satisfactorily, but needs to improve”.
Given the above, residents will find it hard to accept CEO Craig Neimann’s June 14 media statement, “We continue to perform strongly”, when council clearly “needs to improve”.
In the same media release mayor Marg O’Rourke attempted to undermine the survey, “Councillors understand that this is a small survey sample”. The sample size is statistically sound and credible, otherwise it would not be government approved.
Bendigo’s results could be much better if council set performance targets, as the 2013 Independent Review recommendation 55 so skilfully set out. Council must aim for something above mediocrity.
I have previously notified the mayor and CEO proposing a more customer focussed approach, with council setting a solid overall performance target score for next year, and in each of the other survey areas, and publish them. Only then can the community fairly judge council’s efforts.
Both ducked the issue. How council expects significant improvement without setting targets beggars belief. Not good enough.
Maybe councillors should talk to Bendigo Bank leaders to see how they achieved a customer satisfaction score of 89.
The problem our council has is executive officers and certain councillors have a different set of priorities to those of everyday residents as shown by key questions in the 2014 and 2015 surveys. Council has since dropped those questions.
Let’s see a public accountable CSS results report to council. Councillors excusing middling results and avoiding the need to improve will not achieve best outcomes, more forcefully align with residents. Set targets and speak up on our behalf.

Michael McKenzie,
Bendigo