There has been some media attention recently in relation to the expenditure of Council funds on credit cards at another SA Council, many of which may well meet that Council’s policies, but certainly fail the ‘pub test’.
The prudent and efficient use of rate payers’ money is always at the top of my mind during the decision making process and the setting of the annual Council budget.
From my experience West Torrens is a quite open and transparent organisation, with strong controls on place to ensure to inappropriate or unauthorised expenditure does not take place.
Currently the budget process is open to the public, and there is an opportunity for the residents and ratepayers to attend a meeting of Council to ask questions about the budget for the year ahead.
Each month every payment that is made, either by electronic fund transfer (EFT) or cheque (yes cheques are still used!) is reported in the agenda of the Finance and Regulatory Standing Committee, both for the Elected Members to ask any questions, but also for transparency to the public of all expenditure. There are usually well in excess of 500 separate transactions. The total administration cost for the paperwork and monitoring is approximately $18 per transaction.
In addition to the 500 ‘traditional type’ transactions, there are also around 100 transactions that are transacted by credit card. The administration cost for these is around $5.75 each, so a much lower cost than the traditional method. Total annual spending on credit cards is approximately $300,000 out of a total budget of $63 million, so quite a small percentage. There are currently 20 members of staff that have a Council issued credit card, out of a total of 230 full time equivalent employees.**
Until now, this expenditure has not been reported in detail to Elected Members, or the public. I was very happy to move a Motion^, suggested by my Co-Councillor, John Woodward recently that directs the Administration to include every credit card transaction each month, in the same way as all of the other payments made.
I am confident that West Torrens does not have any inappropriate, unauthorised spending occurring, but this increase in transparency will help to expose any questionable areas that may exist, and also serve as a deterrent for the future.
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