Shadow Treasurer Rob Lucas has written to the Auditor General asking him to investigate concerns that a Ministerial Adviser to Minister Leon Bignell had broken government rules in paying for some of his Ministerial expenses.
During 2013 and 2014 Treasurer’s Instruction 13 makes it clear that Ministerial staff were not allowed to use Government issued credit card to pay for Ministerial travel expenses within South Australia.
Section 13.9 of Treasurer’s Instruction 13 ‘Expenditure incurred by Ministers and Ministerial staff’ states:
“Ministerial officers … are entitled to be issued with a government purchase card only when they are accompanying Ministers on interstate and/or overseas travel. The purchase card must be surrendered immediately on return to Adelaide.”
However documents released under FOI show that Mr. Bignell’s Ministerial staffer, Kerry Treuel, used her credit card on a number of occasions whilst travelling with Mr Bignell within South Australia during 2014.
For example the following claims were made in Mount Gambier and Barossa Valley:
10/7/14 Mayura Station $1101.00
10/7/14 Soul Projects $881.00
9/7/2014 Wild Ginger Taste of Asia $88.50
9/7/2014 Sorrentos Café $7.30
28/5/2014 Keils Fine Food and Coffee $36.00
27/5/2014 Tanunda Club Inc. $92.00
In most, if not all, of the examples, Ms Treuel was paying for expenses being incurred by Mr Bignell. Ministers often get staffers to pay for meal expenses, so that the expense doesn’t appear on the Minister’s credit card statement. Clearly these claims were in breach of the Government’s own strict rules outlined by the Treasurer in Treasurer’s Instructions.
The Liberal Party has been informed that there was significant concern within the Government at these breaches of Treasurer’s Instruction.
However rather than enforcing the rules Treasurer Koutsantonis on 21 January of this year amended the Treasurer’s Instruction 13 by including ‘intrastate’ in section 13.9.
“Mr Koutsantonis must now explain why he approved this change in his Treasurer’s Instructions and why he issued no public explanation for the change. This now means the sort of examples highlighted in Mr. Bignell’s office would now be allowed,” said Shadow Treasurer Rob Lucas.
“The Auditor General must now investigate whether Mr Bignell’s Ministerial staffer breached the Treasurer’s Instructions and when Mr. Bignell became aware of these breaches what action, if any, that he took. The Auditor General should also investigate whether other Ministerial staffers were also breaching these government rules.”