Sunday, 28 February 2016

What Is The Value Of An Memorandum Of Understanding Anyway?

memorandum (abbrev.: memo) comes from the Latin  verbal phrase memorandum est, the gerundive  form of the verb memoro, "to mention, call to mind, recount, relate", which means "It must be remembered (that)..."

So, a MoU is therefore a document that helps the memory by recording events or observations or commitments on a topic. Yet, a MoU seems to have an elasticity  of meaning or at least 'commitment'.

If they are so elastic in their meaning you'd have to wonder why institutions create and sign them. If there is a commitment within them to exchange property under certain conditions it be a lawyers picnic if one side want to break the commitment.

The MoU here might well be regarded as decorative but nonetheless an expression of goodwill between Launceston City Council and UTas. It is interesting to read this document seven years on and think about what has happened on the ground.

It would be unfair to say as some have that "nothing of substance has come of it" it is hard to find overt expressions of the MoU. As is the way of things in early days there were projects that were there was a mutually beneficial cooperation between the council and say the School of Architecture. The school's program found opportunities to cooperate and allow students to get hands on designing and making opportunities in the city.

UTas's VC at the time was Professor Daryl Le Grew Prof. le Grew is an architect so it is not so surprising that he might put an architects stamp on the MoU. However, he moved on in 2010 and there were also changes at Town Hall. Alderman van Zetten was Mayor and Rod Sweetnam was acting General Manager. Of the signatories Alderman van Zetten and Professor David Rich remain in their post.

So one might well ask, what real value does a MoUs have? And, then one might well ask, given the potential mutual benefits, why come to such arrangements and then largely walk away from them? Are MoUs in fact merely 'window dressing'?

This particular 2008 MoU may well have been a lever in coming to the "land gift" arrangement under the most recent UTas-LCC MoU

Interestingly, there is a level of 'opacity' associated with it. Why might that be? Are there "commercial-in-confidence" issues? If so why so? Given that the land concerned is "public land" what is the need, or driving force, behind keeping this document secret?

The university has put the 2008 MoU up on the UTas website for the world to see but its not on the LCC website. The 2015 MoU is nowhere to be found online. Why is that? What's actually in the 2015 MoU that the Mayor and Aldermen, unanimously apparently, do not want his constituency to know about? If asking this question is a 'beat up' then Launceston City Council will put the 2015 MoU up on the LCC website by March 1 2016!

If that cannot happen for any reason at all then a media release explaining why not would be more than appropriate to counteract the clandestineness that seems to purvey this whole affair.  

If Council is as good as its word ... "we will share information about a decision or direction" in council's "Community Engagement Framework" and "Organisational Values" meeting this commitment should not present a problem.

If there is a problem in regard to posting the 2015 MoU on the website, then in accord with Council's stated policies, Council would be well advised to put that explanation up on its website. That is, until it is possible to share the 2015 MoU with its constituency. 

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