Last year he was forced to repay $14,000 for wrongful use of entitlements, including travel for his family. In 2003, the Finance Department demanded he repay $7785.67 for breaching the family travel entitlement. His phone bill alone for half of 2009 was $14,764, which was more than that of Kevin Rudd, who was prime minister at the time. His cabs cost $16,000 over just six months, plus $8600 on private-plate cars (it was later revealed his son was spending time driving the taxpayer-funded car). All up, in the last six months of 2009 - a period that caught the eye of the Finance Department - Slipper's upkeep as a humble backbencher, including the running of his electoral office, cost the public $640,562. Slipper's expenditure rolled along last year, when he attracted notice for spending $30,000 on family travel, and also when he took a 43-day overseas tour, which he explained was on parliamentary business."(Update: More today in The Weekend Australian including reference to a police investigation.)
A broad range of concerns regarding transparency and accountability for entitlements and expenditure for and on behalf of members and senators were canvassed at length here last year.
That the Special Minister of State, on the advice of the Department of Finance and Deregulation, table in the parliament: (i) the name of any sitting or former senator or member who has not substantially complied with a request for information about an alleged entitlement misuse within a reasonable time (for example, 28 days) (ii) the outcome of the investigation into the complaint, and (iii) regular reports setting out each senator’s and member’s compliance with the requirement for certification that entitlements have been accessed in accordance with the relevant legislation, including any justification given by the senator or member for non-compliance with the requirement.
A parliamentary integrity commissioner?
This prospect was agreed as part of the minority government agreements of last year. Nothing transpired in the year since until it rated a mention this week in a parliamentary committee report on a possible code of conduct for federal parliamentarians (something first raised in 1975!). If a code were to be adopted,
"the Committee would see value in the appointment of an independent Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner whose central role would be to receive and investigate complaints under the proposed code of conduct."
"the Committee has not considered the wider possible role of a Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner in relation to the use of parliamentary entitlements."
Improvements have been made since 2007 concerning disclosure of payments made by the Department of Finance and Deregulation.
More transparency needed
Among other recommendations the Belcher committee recommended  that "the presiding officers be encouraged to provide regular public reporting of expenditure on services provided to individual senators and members wherever possible. and that all senators and members be required to provide a link on their official parliamentary websites (at www.aph.gov.au) to their individual expenditure reports on the Finance website.(They don't-example)
Whatever "encouragement" about regular reporting there has been has had no effect to date, although to my pleasant surprise the Register of Interests of members of the House of Representatives is on line these days. In all this no one has even mentioned anything world class like the one stop, on line, fully searchable system in place for accountability purposes in the Scottish Parliament.
"There are problems of transparency as not all expenditure is publicly reported in detail and it is difficult, if not impossible, to identify the total expenditure on parliamentarians entitlements and all the ‘entitlements’ that parliamentarians might have. This creates problems both for parliamentarians in accessing entitlements and the various agencies in administering the entitlements. Also there is not a broader transparency as some of the ‘entitlements’ are buried in obscure decision making and are not always clearly articulated;...there are issues of accountability as the myriad of entitlements and the number of agencies providing services create multiple lines of accountability and differing bases for providing accountability."