Confidential M.A.D.E report reveals finances

The City of Ballarat mistakenly published a confidential report assessing the financial position of the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (M.A.D.E).

The council’s chief executive officer, Anthony Schinck, blamed a clerical error for the online publication of the report, which had been previously designated as confidential information under the Local Government Act.

The council has previously released some details of the museum’s financial problems, including detailing that M.A.D.E exceeded its operating budget in just seven months.

The overrun has been, in part, attributed to capital costs of the centre, which opened in May last year.

But not all details were presented to the public.

A ‘M.AD.E Financial Update’ was considered by councillors during an in-camera discussion at a council meeting on April 9 and yesterday the report was accessible on the council’s website.

The council later removed the document.

Mr Schinck said councillors regularly received detailed information in a confidential format, which enabled them to make informed decisions.

“Council takes care to manage sensitive information, and it is unfortunate that this error has been made,” he said.

Mayor Joshua Morris said it was a “regrettable administrative error” and the process had been reviewed to ensure it didn’t happen again.

The report directly outlined details of the museum’s operations, which are largely funded with ratepayers’ money.

It states that, on average,  100 people a day visited M.A.D.E this financial year, including paid and free entry, local children and education visitors.

The museum was originally forecast to achieve revenue of $2.26 million annually, but collected $286,420 in its first six months of operation.

Meanwhile, the report says operating costs were $29,000 a week.

Admissions averaged just $2500 a week and the centre’s overall income was $6200 weekly including merchandise sales.

“To provide a context for these numbers, the central library caters for 800 visitors per day with an operating cost to council of $14,650 per week,” the report states.

Labour costs for M.A.D.E were $1.2 million annually compared with, the report states, $725,000 for the Ballarat Library.

Several options to alter the museum’s focus have now been put to councillors, the report confirms.

Transforming the museum into a Ballarat archive centre has been explored, but the $19 million cost to build the storage facility is considered beyond the council’s resources.

Regional Development Victoria also made it “extremely clear” that the state would not be funding M.A.D.E further.

But “rescoping” M.A.D.E into a history and research centre is still on the table.

rachel.afflick@fairfaxmedia.com.au

fiona.henderson@fairfaxmedia.com.au

museum: Delays and budget worries have plagued the M.A.D.E project for years.

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