Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor siphoning petrol from the Council bowsers

As petrol prices increase there is ongoing concern related to the cost to ratepayers in providing the Lord Mayor and the Deputy Lord Mayor vehicular access. Costs that go unreported on the published Councillor expense statements

Under Council's benefits guidelines the Lord Mayor, John So, is entitled to a chauffeur driven limo and the Deputy Lord Mayor, Garry Singer, is provided with a self-drive limo - both are six cylinder petrol guzzlers.

The Council foots the fuel bills and maintenance costs on both vehicles.

Last year it was reported that the Lord Mayor's limo driver received payment in excess of $100,000 a year including overtime - This years cost go unreported.

It is unclear if the Council is paying the fringe-benefits tax associated with the Lord Mayor's and Deputy Lord Mayor's vehicles.

Under taxation law the Council is required to maintain a travel log to demonstrate the extent of travel that is related to the business of the Council as opposed to private use and taxes are payable on the proportion that is deemed for private use.

Both the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor have free access to the Council petrol bowsers located in Little Collins Street allowing them to siphon out petrol for their personal use.

Unlike other Councillors the costs associated with local travel for the Lord Mayor and the Deputy Lord Mayor are not disclosed or published in the Councillor expense statements along with the other Councillors local travel costs. Why?

Under the provisions of the Local Government (General) Regulations 2004 the Council is required to maintain a list, which is required to be made available to the public, which includes:

  • details of senior officers' total salary packages for the current financial year and the previous year including the gross salary, the amount of the Council or employer contribution to superannuation, the value of any motor vehicle provided by the Council and the total value of any other benefits and allowances provided by the Council;

  • details of all property, finance and operating leases involving land, buildings, plant, computer equipment or vehicles entered into by the Council as lessor or lessee, including the name of the other party to the lease and the terms and the value of the lease;

Whilst it regulations do not yet include incidental costs such as free fuel, and it is unclear if also includes costs of benefits provided to Councillors is included, this information should be published in the interest of maintaining open and transparent governance.

We understand that senior staff members have access to the Council bowser and are also provided with Fuel Charge cards allowing them top fill up at Councils expense.

The cost of the Council's overall fuel bill including any credit card purchases would be of interest to ratepayers. The Council administration can and should provide a breakdown of costs by department and if need be by individual users.

Fringe-benefits Tax

In spite numerous requests no information as been provided by the Council as to the extent of its liability and amount paid in fringe benefits tax to both staff and Councillors.

We have written to the Council audit committee before seeking this information but again no response. Are they avoiding payment of taxes due?

We previously have asked similar questions in relation to the allocation of Frequent Flyer Awards allocated to staff and Councillors undertaking Council overseas and interstate travel. All are subject to a fringe-benefits tax.

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