| 17.01,12. 12:57 PM |
The naughty list: MPs named and shamed for failure to verify expenses
January 17, 2012.
THE Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, and former prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating are among those who have claimed parliamentary expenses but not verified them, according to a list published by the Department of Finance.
Serving and former parliamentarians are entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars in allowances a year for domestic and overseas travel, office fit-outs and family travel expenses. For example, Mr Abbott was paid about $590,000 in entitlements for the first half of 2011, according to the department's report, and Ms Roxon claimed about $190,500 for the same period.
Advertisement: Story continues below But for the first time the department has published a ''name and shame'' list of the politicians who failed to examine the bill they ran up and check it off against their own accounts.
Every parliamentarian is provided with a six-monthly account, called a ''management report'', of what he or she has spent and asked to certify that the expenses were paid for proper reasons.
But politicians including the Deputy Opposition Leader, Julie Bishop, and the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, have not yet tallied their accounts for the public record, according to the department's list.
Signing off on the accounts is not compulsory but in a 2009 Senate estimates hearing, Labor senator John Faulkner advocated for the ''naming and shaming'' list as an important transparency measure.
''I certainly would not want to be a parliamentarian so named and that of itself, I think, would be a significant sanction,'' he told the hearing. ''What people want to see is the management reports certified and provided to the department.''
A 2009-10 Auditor-General's report pointed out weaknesses in the self-certification system, including that compliance by parliamentarians was voluntary.
Queensland Labor senator Claire Moore has spoken on this issue in Senate estimates and, together with Senator Faulkner, has advocated for greater accountability.
She said each parliamentary office was like a small business with allocations for expenses, for which the member or senator was accountable, as a small business person would be.
''Sometimes there are mistakes and it's part of your personal accountability as a parliamentarian to check the accounts,'' she said. ''There is public scrutiny and you have a special relationship with the community because you are spending taxpayers' money.''
A spokesman for Mr Abbott said his office had raised queries with the Department of Finance over his management report and, as such, had not certified it yet.
''Our office rigorously checks all expenditure to ensure that it is within entitlement," the spokesman said.
Ms Roxon told the Herald: ''I have very efficient staff - clearly this has been an unusual oversight in a time of portfolio change in our office.''
A spokesman for Ms Bishop said: ''To the best of her knowledge she has certified and she will contact the Finance Department to see what the problem is.''
A spokesman for Mr Bowen said the minister had personally certified his expenditure every month for that period and senator Eric Abetz's office said the senator would ''ensure it is resolved as soon as possible".