News MPs to repay almost $50,000 in accommodation allowance claims

MPs to repay almost $50,000 in accommodation allowance claims

The Government has announced changes to the way allowances are reported following an investigation into Liberal MP Terry Stephens. Photo: Facebook
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Some South Australian Liberal MPs will be forced to repay money incorrectly claimed under a parliamentary allowance provided for country MPs to stay in the city on official business – but the Premier Steven Marshall has denied any “deliberate dishonesty”.

Mr Marshall said some MPs have come forward to him admitting “administrative errors” in claiming the allowance, which is worth more than $31,000 a year.

“There have been some administrative errors and I’ve made it clear to my team they need to make it clear what those administrative errors were and rectify them as quickly as possible, and all of that information will be provided to the Parliament this afternoon,” Mr Marshall said.

“But I’m not of the opinion there’s been any deliberate dishonesty.”

The revelation came minutes before the Parliament released 10 years’ worth of claims under the allowance, prompted by an ABC investigation into the eligibility of Legislative Council President Terry Stephens to claim.

A series of ABC stories demonstrated Mr Stephens spent significant time at his million-dollar-plus suburban Adelaide property while claiming tens of thousands of dollars in allowance.

Those questions have now been referred to the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander, while the Auditor-General, Taxation Commissioner and Electoral Commissioner have also been asked to examine the senior Liberal MP’s living arrangements.

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The Norwood property of SA Liberal MP Terry Stephens. Photo: ABC News: Patrick Martin

Premier admits greater transparency needed

Mr Marshall admitted greater transparency was needed, and said both the Speaker of the House of Assembly Vincent Tarzia and Legislative Council President Terry Stephens would push for records of the Country Members Accommodation Allowance to be published monthly.

Mr Marshall said the government had also written to the Auditor-General, seeking increased scrutiny, including random audits.

“We need to assure the people of SA that when their money is spent it’s spent in accordance with the guidelines,” Mr Marshall said.

He said the government would also write to the state’s remuneration tribunal seeking “greater certainty and clarity” over when the allowance could be claimed.

“I think there has been ambiguity over a long period of time and it’s now time to clean up this situation and provide much greater certainty going forward,” the Premier said.