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August 6, 2021

Tweed councillor’s expense-claim details ‘inadequate’

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Cr Carolyn Byrne’s travelexpense claims were disputed and referred to an audit, which found she had provided ‘inadequate’ details.

Luis Feliu

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/).

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  1. Makes one wonder if Carolyn Byrne’s Solicitor Services are in decline, as she seems to be cutting corners in deeming Council expenses without adequate detail. A Mayor has every right to scrutinize where our Tax Payers moneys are spent – or siphoned off ??? Lucky we have a diligent Mayor. Wish we could say the same for all Councillors.

  2. What kind of solicitor would be sloppy about details of her work when she is accountable to the shire? How quick she is to take other councillors to court for petty issues when she has plenty of skeletons in her cupboard!

  3. I beg Tweed Shire voters to remember this councillor’s pattern of behavior when casting their votes at the next council elections. We deserve better than this.

  4. So according to the reviewer what seems to be wrong in the present is not wrong in the present because Carolyn was paid out in the past when it was deemed to be right in the past and when it was deemed to be right in the past that decision making in the past then overrides the decision in the present so the decision in the present is right and morally correct. It makes sense to me. This is how it works.

  5. Good to see some oversight from an elected official. It’s sadly lacking in our State and Federal governments. Ms Milne seems to remember she serves our community – I commend her for taking a stance.

  6. All expenses claims should be fully accountable and transparent, that is practice for all successful business, the Tweed Shire Council is no exception. It would seem this has not happened previously and should be changed immediately, tax payers money being wasted because councillor’s can’t keep proper account of their expenses, not looking good.

  7. Due diligence, accountability and transparency are vitally important for elected officials. The old way of doing things because they were done like that before, is no longer acceptable. Improvements require new ways of doing things. I congratulate the mayor for working to improve the way expenses are documented and approved.

    I find it odd that Councillor Byrne, as a lawyer, has not been able to provide the correct & completed details of her expense claims. The article said that the power to approve expenses was ‘stripped from the mayor’, because of questions about expenses. Why would the Councillors object to actions that aim to improve transparency and accountability? Surely every one of them would care deeply about how tax payers money spent?

    This issue of unexplained expenses with a lack of accountability has concerning overtones.


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