Dodgy council claims

Dodgy council claims
TOM MINEAR AND KIERAN ROONEY

We pay for booze, fines and even spas
TAXPAYERS have been slugged with the cost of boozy lunches, parking fines, shots of alcohol and trips to wineries and beauty spas by councillors and staff across the state.

A scathing investigation by Victoria’s Auditor-General has concluded that councils are failing to meet ratepayers’ expectations with their frivolous and secretive use of public money.

It uncovered scores of questionable expenses, including a $298 lunch for Strathbogie council staff with beer, wine, vodka and other “shots”.

A Strathbogie manager also paid for drinks at a pub for “good morale after busy week”, and twice visited a cafe on weekends, saying it was for meetings even though a children’s meal was purchased.

Wellington Shire spent $1349 on a dinner for new councillors and their partners, while cans of pre-mixed alcohol drinks and a $171 case of wine were purchased as “meeting supplies”, even though the council maintained councillors did not drink on the job.

Wyndham’s chief executive billed ratepayers more than $180 at two bookshops while in Canberra for a conference, as well as $73 at a cocktail bar.

The report, from acting Auditor-General Dave Barry, analysed spending by Wellington, Strathbogie, Wyndham and Shepparton councils, and found major gaps in corruption controls. Strathbogie council received particularly heavy scrutiny over cases including: THE chief executive and a councillor having two parking fines totalling $310 paid because they “did not intend to risk parking illegally”;

AN executive receiving $21,700 for rent based on a “loose” salary packaging agreement;

A COUNCILLOR claiming almost $3500 for home phone and internet expenses — despite having a work mobile phone; and

STAFF being sold taxpayerfunded fleet cars as much as $15,000 below market value, with one given a vehicle — bought for $42,000 in 2014 — for free in an exit package.

Questions were also raised about the $4.9 million spent on 256 credit cards by Wyndham staff, including a $534 “monthly working lunch” for executives.

The report revealed Wyndham councillors received an $800 lump sum printing allowance even though they could access council office printers.

Council credit cards were also used for accommodation, food and drinks, and visits to tourists attractions by staff who were on leave.

Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek moved to reassure Victorians that most councils were “not interested in boozy lunches”.

tom.minear@news.com.au

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