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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Shine a little light on politicians use of public money

This letter in today's Sydney Morning Herald under the heading "Show us the money" in response to yesterday's editorial, will sound familiar to those who read the post here on the same subject on Monday.

"I agree we should accept the umpire's reasonable assessment that an increase in electoral allowance is justified ("Let's be honest about MPs' pay", April 28). But we need transparency about these and other allowances paid to our representatives. The electoral allowance is taxable income, but if not spent - and no one knows what is paid to whom, and for what purpose - it goes into the pocket. MPs should be required to report on what they do with our money. For some reason the Government, in its recently announced Freedom of Information reforms, has not acted upon a 1995 Law Reform Commission recommendation that the departments that administer Parliament be covered by the FoI Act. Even that would not go far enough to meet today's expectations of transparency and accountability. Information about expenditure and retention of any allowance payments should be up on the web for all to see.

Peter Timmins Potts Point"

Meanwhile, Sean Parnell in The Australian, with the help of a little noticed Auditor General's Report and the Freedom of Information Act, gives some details of The Australian Political Parties for Democracy Program, a program administered by the Department of Finance and Deregulation, involving grants of up to $1 million a year to the major political parties.
"While some of the taxpayer funds have been spent promoting democracy in the Asia-Pacific region, the Labor and Liberal parties have spent more of their grant money hooking up with established Western organisations and paying staff to arrange their travels."
The basis for the deletion of "the names of those involved and some of the projects" from documents released to The Australian is not explained in the article.

On pages 11 and 12 of the Auditor General's report in a comment about shortcomings of the program, it turns out that the arrangements are such that the parties don't have to spend the grant funds for the purposes outlined in their annual applications for money, have not properly acquitted the money received, and that the Department hasn't in place any measures relevant to assessing expenditure against the objective of "strengthening democracy internationally."

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:25 am

    I wonder if The Oz could publish the FOI decision letters, with the relevant documents, on their website. Readers could then see the reasons offered for the deletions mentioned in the article.
    Anon in canberra