Politicians pay back allowance

Two South East politicians are paying back incorrectly claimed travel allowances, following revelations from state parliament. Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell and Member for MacKillop Nick McBride are among three state parliamentarians to have recently paid back a wrongly claimed travel allowance.

Reports show that Mr Bell is back paying nearly $43,000 for incorrectly claiming against the Country Members Allowance, an allowance to compensate regional members for accommodation in Adelaide. It is understood that Mr Bell began paying back his allowance in April for claims made as far back as 2014 “out of an abundance of caution”.

Last week, it was revealed that Mr Bell, Mr McBride, and Peter Treloar MP were the latest MPs to have incorrectly claimed against the allowance. In a statement to The SE Voice, Mr McBride said “during the audit of my Country Members Claims for 2018/2019 which I undertook in August 2020 I found that I was overpaid an amount of $225 for one night of accommodation claimed in April 2018”.

“I was over paid due to my mistake,” Mr McBride said. “Claims should be made on a monthly basis on separate forms. “I had initially recorded dates over a period of two months on one form. “When the information was transcribed into separate months by the clerk’s office, I was allocated an additional day in error.

“I did not pick up this error when I resigned the claim form. “I am sorry that this error occurred in claiming the allowance. “I seek to be diligent in ensuring I operate within the rules of the parliament.”

Mr McBride added that he did not make any claims for the allowance in 2019/20 because he “increasingly felt” there was inadequate guidance available to interpret the rules for claims against the allowance.

The breach of the allowance was revealed last week during the SA government’s estimates hearing. Premier Steven Marshall said that each of the MPs had returned payments claimed in the last financial year, with Mr Bell also continuing to pay back allowance payments.

Country members can claim the Country Members Allowance, which is funded by South Australian taxpayers, for travelling from the regions to Adelaide and back for their official duties. To claim the allowance, MPs need to live at least 75km from Adelaide. Parliamentarians who meet this requirement can claim $234 for each night they stay in metropolitan Adelaide.

MPs are also required to provide receipts as evidence of their expenditure, a condition that was not required under previous rules, which came under scrutiny in 2020 by the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Another condition introduced in late 2020 meant that country MPs would be unable to claim the allowance if staying with a friend in metropolitan Adelaide.

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