Perth council forfeits $750k in unpaid fines

Less revenue-raising tickets, more council action please.
Less revenue-raising tickets, more council action please.

THE Town of Victoria Park has given up more than $750,000 in outstanding fines because council staff forgot to pass thousands of historic infringements to its debt collector.

The unpaid fines – mostly from parking infringements – accumulated between 2006 and last year, when the clerical error was discovered.

In all, council staff found 11,148 unpaid fines, including nearly 8000 for which the statute of limitation to call in a debt collector had expired.

Staff made a final attempt to recoup 1000 of the highest-value fines by sending a further letter of demand this year, but only 49 were paid, returning $6617.

Given the estimated cost of that collection effort was nearly $3000, plus staff time and effort, the Town’s councillors accepted that chasing the rest would be an exercise too costly and futile to pursue.

They agreed to write off the remaining bad debt of $767,199.13 at their June council meeting.

At that meeting, Cr Karen Vernon described the unrecoverable debt as “so disappointing on so many levels”, a result of human errors and money that could have made a significant difference to community projects or loan repayments.

The Town of Victoria Park declined to answer if staff were dismissed or reprimanded over the bungle.

Former chief financial officer Nathan Cain left the council earlier this year, leaving business services manager Luke Ellis to temporarily act in the position during the annual budget preparation period.

Victoria Park’s replacement chief financial officer, Michael Cole, started last month.

In a statement, Victoria Park chief executive Anthony Vuleta said the Town’s debt collection policy and practice had been reviewed and updated.

He accepted the situation was due to administrative failures and vowed robust management of outstanding infringements in future.