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Sunday, 03.18.2018
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Poor Workmanship and Poor Management.


On this website, I often complain that Manningham council are unable to manage people, processes and costs. And I usually give examples of their shortcomings from the council's own documents.

But this time I would like to give a real life example of their poor management practices.


Sloppy Work.

I noticed some work done recently by Manningham Council along Blackburn Road. It was a new protective barrier erected to protect people from a slope beside a footpath.

It had been built recently either by council workers or contractors. What I noticed was the very poor standard of work.

I took some pictures.

It isn't really a first rate job, is it?


Please note several things:

a) Note the carelessness in the selection of the timber. And see how the poorer quality timber has been used for the highly visible parts of the job. Normally better lengths of wood are selected for parts that are visible while poorer lengths of wood are hidden by facing them to the back of the posts. Little care has been given here.

b) Note how little effort has been made to neatly countersink the stainless steel bolts holding to top rail to the posts.

c) Note the highly visible joins in the timber for the top hand rail. Normally you would select timber carefully and cut it so that the joins are at the top of the upright posts. But here the timber has been joined wherever it ends and no attempt has been made to hide to hide the joins. Also these joins may open over time as the timber dries to form even more unsightly gaps.

d) Note how the barrier did not even get a coat of paint. Two coats of paint would have formed some protection for the public against splinters. It would have also made the timber last longer and the barrier look better.


We need to give the council more money.

Maybe some people will say "The council does not have the money to do their work properly. We must pay them more rates!".

But just a minute.

Manningham council most likely paid two, three or four times more for this barrier than they should have.

Manningham consistently budgets and pays far more than they should for all types of public works.

For example, in earlier budget documents, the council allocated $250,000 to build a new public toilet (excluding any land costs).

For $250,000 you could build a modern, large, well appointed family home -- as I pointed out in a previous article.

"For instance, the 'Amberlea' from Simonds Homes, $276,300 on your own land. Two stories, double garage, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, balcony, walk in robes, rumpus room...

Or the 'Elwood' also from Simonds. $237,900 on your own land. As above. But only 3 bedrooms and a study nook that might also be used a bedroom.

Similarly for the Stanten $226,200, Torino $252,800 and Oxford $239,300 all on your own land."

However, for $250,000 Manningham council provides a public toilet. That is - a concrete or wood box with electrical and plumbing work.

There are far more fittings, labor, material, etc. that goes into a private home than goes into any public toilet.

But this does not seem to register with Manningham council. They seem to think that a quarter of a million dollars for a public toilet is good value for money.

I think we can safely say that Manningham council budgeted and spent far more on that wood barrier than they should have, possibly many times more.


Why does this happen?

Why does Manningham Council allow their staff (or contractors) to get away with such poor quality work and then pay more for it than they should. Why don't they put a stop to this low quality work and waste of public money?

As I have said many times before, Manningham council has very poor management skills and practices. Manningham council is very poor at managing people, processes and costs.

What Manningham council does is spend a huge amount of time, effort and money preparing and updating their numerous policy documents. (And to be fair, the State Government requires, by law, that councils prepare such policy documents.)

But I think their focus on policy documents is based on misguided beliefs and wishful thinking. Please let me explain.

From what I can tell, Manningham Council appears to think that policy documents are a very important tool of management.

Their policy documents explain the purpose, values, beliefs, goals and objectives of the various programs of Manningham council.

From what I can tell, Manningham council (and the state government) seem to think that if council employees know what the council objectives and values are, they will act accordingly.

Will they?

If I am right in how the council views their numerous policy documents, then I think there is a lot of wishful thinking going on at Manningham council (and in the State government).

From my experience, much tighter management of staff is required than just producing vague policy documents and expecting staff to read, understand and apply them.

It is true that many private companies also have policy and 'vision' documents. In my experience these have typically been one page or very small documents. They are usually nothing like the multipage volumes produced by Manningham Council.

Typically in private enterprise, managers do not primarily rely on staff to read and apply their policy or 'vision' documents. Instead, private enterprise normally ensures that values, standards and objectives are met by the careful management of people, processes, projects, etc. and by a careful and mature review afterwards of whether each job or project was successful or not.

Typically in private enterprise, an assessment or inspection is made of nearly all work done, (whether you are aware of this inspection taking place or not). And when a job is not up to standard or has not met it's objective you often know about it very quickly.

If private enterprise were to prepare 'policy' documents like the councils do, I am sure it would be seen as unnecessary and a massive waste of time and money.


Can councils manage properly?

Off course they can't.

Let's ask some simple questions.

Who checks work done by staff or contractors? Does anyone check work done? And who approves payment if the work is done by a contractor?

There is good evidence right now in Blackburn road that there are many gaps in Manningham Council's management practices. And that some very basic management skills are strangely missing.

Let me ask one more question. If this barrier was built by contractors, was there any inspection made by council staff before payment was made, or was payment simply made when the contractors said they had finished the job?

From what I can see, if this barrier was built by contractors, it would appear that payment was made when the contractors said they had finished and no inspection was made. And even if an inspection was made, then the council did not have the management skills and experience to have the shoddy work remedied.


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