Kimba first EP council to publish travel costs

The Kimba District Council is the first council on the Eyre Peninsula to move to publish the travel expenses of its elected members and senior management staff.

Councillors made the decision at the February council meeting after concerns were raised about a ratepayer-funded trip by a member of another regional South Australian council.

At last month’s council meeting, Kimba councillors unanimously voted for all travel costs incurred by the mayor, councillors and senior management during the 2017-18 financial year to be included in the 2017-18 annual report.

Kimba District Council chief executive officer Deb Larwood said the council recognised community concerns about how money was spent.

“Council recognises that there is significant community concern about how ratepayer money is utilised by local government, both on the Eyre Peninsula and across the state generally, especially in light of recent media coverage about some council travel expenditure that has cast aspersions over the entire sector,” Mrs Larwood said.

“Publishing the travel costs incurred by elected members and senior management will extend council’s current good governance by providing complete transparency on the value travel undertaken during the 2017-18 financial year provided ratepayers.”

Mrs Larwood said the decision simply formalised the steps the council already took to ensure public money spent on travel for council business represented “strong community leadership and a quantifiable return on investment”.

Councillors also voted to wait for direction from the government on the potential legislative requirements and scope of publishing future travel costs for elected members and senior management.

If elected at the March state election the Liberal Party plans to make it mandatory for all South Australian councils to publish travel expenses to increase transparency and accountability.

Opposition spokesman for local government David Pisoni said ratepayers had the right to know how their money was being spent.

“At the moment there is a complete lack of transparency and accountability in the way councils are reporting how they spend ratepayer money,” Mr Pisoni said.

“Ratepayers have a right to know how much of their dollars are being spent on travel for elected members as well as other expenses.

“Ministers and their staff are required to disclose travel expenses and elected local government representatives should be subject to the same level of scrutiny and transparency.”