Tweed ratepayers will foot a bill of hundreds of dollars for travel claims by one of their councillors despite an ‘inadequate’ lack of detail of where they went and for what.
A review of expense claims made by Cr Carolyn Byrne for last December and January has found she provided ‘inadequate’ information on them, yet the chair of the audit committee looking at them has recommended she be paid out because of past practice where similar claims were reimbursed.
Cr Byrne had claimed back hundreds of dollars in each of those months for hundreds of kilometres travelled on ’site visits’ around the Tweed, but the exact location and development is not mentioned, only the date, the area and the number of kilometres travelled.
But Tweed mayor Katie Milne, who referred the claims for review, disputed them because of what she says is a lack of transparency.
In a Tweed Shire Council report on the issue to be debated at tomorrow night’s meeting, the shire’s director of corporate services Liz Collyer has recommended the audit review, by chair of the audit committee, be received and noted and Cr Byrne’s expense claims reimbursed ‘in accordance with past practice’.
The council policy on councillor expenses under which Cr Byrne was dealt with has also been reviewed and councillors are set to adopt the new policy tomorrow.
In the audit report, chair C S Wight concluded that the information given by Cr Byrne on her claims was ‘inadequate’, but because the ‘amount of detail’ was ‘consistent’ with some of her previous claims approved last year by then mayor Gary Bagnall and later, mayor Milne, it was recommended the disputed ones also be reimbursed.
‘Accordingly, I continue to recommend that the claims be reimbursed notwithstanding the obvious deficiencies in the detail provided,’ the audit chair said.
In one of her disputed claims, Cr Byrne claimed 59km in travel expenses for ’site visits’ on 19 December last year, with no location given. Others disputed are similar.
The audit also noted the detail in the claim for 26km for 30 December was ‘indecipherable’.
The debate tomorrow on the issue is set to be fiery, as the mayor has previously quizzed the claims and tried to improve accountability and transparency in the reporting of councillors’ monthly expenses.
Cr Milne’s move rebounded as her opponents, including Cr Byrne, stripped the mayor of her role in approving their claims (see Echonetdaily previous story (https://www.echo.net.au/2016/02/tweed-mayor-sidelined-over-bitter-expenses-row/).