Thousands of parking fines could be refunded after the Victorian Ombudsman found another seven councils and agencies might have acted illegally by outsourcing their review process.
In a report tabled in State Parliament on Wednesday, Ombudsman Deborah Glass said she had identified another 17,400 dubious fines handed out by Geelong, Frankston and Mildura councils, as well as Parks Victoria and Monash University.
A Melbourne City Council ranger issues a parking ticket in 2016.Credit:Eddie Jim
The bodies all used a private contractor to determine whether fines were valid when motorists challenged them, including at:
- Greater Geelong City Council, where 6400 fines were issued between 2009 and 2018;
- Frankston City Council, where 8500 fines were issued between November 2008 and April 2014;
- Mildura Rural City Council, where 2500 fines were issued between July 2007 and May 2009;
- Bass Coast Shire Council, which issued an unknown number of fines between 2007 and 2009;
- Hume City Council, which issued an unknown number of fines up to 2016;
- Parks Victoria, which issued an unknown number of fines at Albert Park Reserve between 2006 and March 2019; and
- Monash University, which issued an unknown number of fines up to 2019.
The Ombudsman investigation has now put 268,000 fines into doubt over the saga, from 12 councils and agencies.
All the relevant councils and agencies have started reviewing fines internally and have agreed to set up refund schemes.
Tabling the follow-up report on Wednesday, Ms Glass said motorists who unsuccessfully challenged a fine in the relevant periods should contact the council or agency to see if they are eligible for a refund.
“Fines are part of life and if people do the wrong thing they should be fined – but it needs to be done properly, fairly and in accordance with legislation,” Ms Glass said.
In her initial report, tabled in February last year, Ms Glass said the practice of outsourcing the reviews process to external contractors “appeared to have been contrary to the law”.
This practice was in place for about 10 years at some councils.
“Every so often, I table a report suspecting what we discovered during our investigation is just the tip of the iceberg – this has again proven to be the case,” Ms Glass said.
Last year, Port Phillip, Stonnington and Glen Eira councils agreed to refund $20 million worth of parking fines.
Glen Eira said it would refund more than 36,000 fines worth $3.67 million, Port Phillip will refund more than 87,000 fines valued at $8.8 million and Stonnington will refund 81,000 fines valued at $6.9 million.
In 2019, Monash and Kingston councils announced they would repay 46,000 fines, valued at $2.3 million, reviewed between 2006 and 2016 by the same private company.
The Department of Justice and Community Safety is now checking outsourcing practices at other enforcement agencies, Ms Glass said.
Separately, Melbourne City Council last year agreed to repay 450 drivers who confused zero with the letter O when entering their registration on the PayStay app to pay for parking in the CBD following an Ombudsman’s investigation.
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