Members' Additional Entitlements 2017

Overview

In a report released today, the Auditor-General for New South Wales, Margaret Crawford, identified two instances where Members of Parliament did not materially comply with the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal’s Determination relating to additional entitlements. The Department of Parliamentary Services has subsequently requested that the two Members concerned repay amounts that were incorrectly claimed. One claim was made under the Electorate to Sydney Travel allowance and the other from the Communication allowance.

Members' Additional Entitlements 2017

The Auditor‑General has reviewed the compliance of Members of the NSW Parliament with certain requirements outlined in the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal’s Determination (the Determination) for the year ended 30 June 2017.

The Auditor‑General's review is designed to provide Parliament with limited assurance about Members' compliance with the Determination. The review program is designed to review each Member's compliance once within the four‑year Parliamentary term. Therefore, the reviews may not detect all instances of non‑compliance. This year's review covered 41 of the 135 Members of the NSW Parliament.

Results

Our review identified two instances of material non‑compliance with the Determination for the year ended 30 June 2017. This non‑compliance has resulted in requests for the Members to repay claims.

The following image highlights two instances of non-compliance where Members had to repay claims. One was for the Electorate to Sydney Travel Allowance while the other was for the Communications Allowance

A further eight instances of minor non‑compliance with the Determination were also identified.

This diagrams shows there were eight instances of minor non-compliance with the Determination, including with the Sydney Allowance, Communications Allowance and Declaration of Loyalty/Incentive Schemes

Background

The Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal (the Tribunal) determines the salary and entitlements of Members of NSW Parliament (Members). These are set out in the Tribunal’s annual Determination.

The following is a graphical overview of Members' Entitlements comprising Members' Additional Entitlements, Other salaries and expense allowances and Annual basic salary

The NSW Parliament, through the Department of Parliamentary Services (the Department), administers the provision of additional entitlements to Members in accordance with the Tribunal’s Determination. In 2017, Members claimed $23.0 million in Additional Entitlements (an increase of 7.3 per cent from 2016).

The following table shows that while allowances for Members have increased since 2016, fixed allocations have decreased over the same time period

Detailed findings

Material findings

One Member's Communications Allowance claim did not relate to matters affecting their electorate

Communications Allowance claims must relate to matters affecting the Member's electorate to be an eligible claim. We found one Member claimed the production costs for a video, but the message communicated in this video did not relate to matters affecting the Member's electorate. Consequently, the Department has asked the Member to return the claimed amount.

One Member's Electorate to Sydney Allowance claim did not relate to parliamentary duties

The Electorate to Sydney Travel claims must relate to parliamentary duties. Members are required to maintain records to support that travel to Sydney was in connection to their parliamentary duties. We found one Member claimed travel costs for their private motor vehicle, but the Member was unable to provide evidence to support that their travel related to parliamentary duties. Consequently, the Department has asked the Member to return the claimed amount.

Other findings

Three Members submitted their Sydney Allowance reconciliations late

The following timeline shows three members submitted their Sydney allownce reconciliations late. Two a week after the half-year reconciliation due date and another a few days after the year-end reconciliation
Source: Department of Parliamentary Services.

The Sydney Allowance is provided to Members if their principal place of residence is at least 70 kilometres by road from Parliament House. It compensates Members for the additional cost associated with staying in Sydney to attend sessions of Parliament, meetings of parliamentary committees or other parliamentary business.

At the start of each financial year, a Member can choose to receive the Sydney Allowance as either an annual fixed amount, or at a daily rate for each required overnight stay. Members receiving the fixed annual Sydney Allowance submit reconciliations twice a year to the Department and must return any excess of the Allowance over the actual expense by 30 September each year.

As shown in the table below, almost half of the Members entitled to the Sydney Allowance elected to receive it as an annual fixed amount for the year ended 30 June 2017.

Year ended 30 June 2017 2016 2015 Post-election 2015 Pre-election
Legislative Assembly
Members receiving entitlement on an annual basis 20 19 16 19
Members receiving entitlement on a daily rate 22 25 25 25
Legislative Council
Members receiving entitlement on an annual basis 8 8 6 7
Members receiving entitlement on a daily rate 16 13 15 14

Source: Department of Parliamentary Services
 

One Member's Communications Allowance claim was not submitted by the required date

All accounts and Members' expense claims must be submitted to the Department of Parliamentary Services within 60 days of receipt or occurrence of the expense. One Member submitted their Communications Allowance claim 76 days late (136 days after the receipt date).
The Communications Allowance was introduced on 1 July 2016. It replaced the abolished non electronic communications component of the Logistic Support Allocation and the Electorate Communication Allowance.

The Communications Allowance is an annual budget provided to Members to meet the costs associated with communicating with their constituents. This includes expenses relating to:

  • production and distribution of newsletters and brochures
  • printing of letterheads and flyers
  • audio posters and other e-publications
  • developing, hosting and maintaining a website and/or other social media
  • email distribution services
  • other forms of communications approved by Parliament.

One Member submitted a qualified loyalty/incentive scheme annual declaration

Members must declare that they have not used loyalty/incentive schemes benefits accrued from their parliamentary duties for private purposes. One Member declared that points were accrued from both personal and parliamentary purpose, and that points were applied for both personal and parliamentary purposes. Further detail on the use of points accrued performing parliamentary duties was not provided.

Three former Members completed their loyalty/ incentive scheme declarations late

The Determination requires current Members to complete declarations by 30 June 2017 and former Members within 30 days of leaving Parliament.

This review identified three Members who did not submit their declarations in a timely manner. Two former Members submitted their declarations 16 days after the deadline. A former Member who resigned in February 2017 submitted their declaration in April 2018.

Completion of annual declarations continues to improve

This year, records maintained by the Department of Parliamentary services showed all Members had completed their annual declarations.

Year ended 30 June 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013
Number of Members that did not complete an annual declaration - 1 5 22 22

Source: Department of Parliamentary Services.

Enhanced public reporting of Members' expenditure claims is expected

In 2016, the Auditor General's Report to Parliament recommended the Tribunal consider, as a part of the Determination review process, requiring the Department to regularly publish full details of Members' expenditure claims on its website in an accessible and searchable format.

The Tribunal expects greater public reporting of Members' additional expenditure to commence from 1 July 2019. This reporting is planned to be through an online reporting platform. Information will be made available for the following additional entitlements expenditure:

  • Communications Allowance
  • General Travel Allowance
  • Electorate to Sydney Allowance
  • Sydney Allowance.

Details are planned to be shown as aggregates of actual expenditure versus annual budget allocations for each Member. Broader allowance types, such as the Communications Allowance and General Travel Allowance, will also include subcategories for more detail. Information on Members' expenditure will likely be updated March and October each year.