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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chance to lift parliamentarians game with taxpayers' money

Maybe there's a chance that the new influences at work in the Federal Parliament will, along with other much needed governance reforms, force action regarding transparency and accountability for payments to and expenditure by members and senators. This from the Sunshine Coast Daily is further evidence of the problem, if any is needed. The paper
has made a formal request to the Commonwealth Auditor-General for a full review of Fisher MP Peter Slipper’s entitlements for the period July 1 to December 31, 2009. Mr Slipper was the only Queensland Liberal to record a two-party preferred swing against him in last Saturday’s federal election following revelations about his extraordinary expenditure. The request is now being considered by the Australian National Audit Office. Information is also being sought from the Department of Finance and Deregulation, under Freedom of Information, regarding money Mr Slipper is believed to have been required to reimburse for unverifiable claims for expenses he said he incurred when he served as a parliamentary secretary....He  said only that the expenditure was incurred during the course of parliamentary, committee and electorate business. That is the only advice he is required to give the Department of Finance and Deregulation to justify his claims. A spokesman for the department said yesterday that it requested parliamentarians to certify each month that “entitlements accessed during that month were accessed in accordance with the legislation”. “However, ,” the spokesman said Finance is not provided with details of the purpose for which individual journeys are undertaken.
You will notice the word "requested" there.When the issue was last raised publicly a year ago Finance officials told a Senate committee a group of unnamed "recalcitrant" parliamentarians did not sign off monthly that money had been properly spent. No names, no packdrill as far as I'm aware.

Money paid out by Finance at least is subject to the FOI act, but Parliament itself which administers other payments and entitlements for members and senators is not. It should be. All payments and expenditure should be proactively published in any event.

An independent panel was established by Minister Ludwig in September last year to report on entitlements and related matters - "publicly"  the Minister said - within 6 months. According to The Age  last month, the Minister received the report in April. And?

A spokesman for Senator Ludwig said the panel's findings were being considered and a response would be released by the government ''in due course''
Let's hope the kingmakers in Canberra at the moment think the time for action is nigh.

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