Councillors give up control of credit cards

THE need for council approval before the issuing of a mayoral credit card has been removed by the new Derwent Valley Council. At its final meeting before Christmas, the incoming council unanimously approved a new credit card policy that increased the number of council credit cards from two to five, with a combined monthly limit of $39,000.

Following the suspension of the previous mayoral credit card in December 2015, the council introduced a new policy in February 2016 that allowed for a council credit card to be issued to the mayor only if approved by a majority vote of councillors.

That has now been overturned by the updated policy approved last month, which names the general manager, corporate and community services manager, chief financial officer and senior finance officer as “authorisers” empowered to issue credit cards, rather than the elected members.

The updated policy prohibits credit cards from being allocated to councillors with the exception of the mayor, and says: “A credit card may be issued to the mayor if the operational benefits to council of efficient purchasing sufficiently outweigh the administrative cost of managing an additional card.”

In a written report, systems manager Amanda McCall said the revised policy provided “a robust and  comprehensive framework for the use of credit cards by delegated council officers and where  necessary the mayor.” Ms McCall said the policy had been developed in consultation with the Tasmanian Audit Office and Local Government Association of Tasmania.

Ms McCall said the following cards and limits would be allocated:

  • General Manager – $10,000
  • Corporate and Community Services manager – $10,000
  • Infrastructure and Development Services manager – $10,000
  • Children’s Services director – $4000
  • Executive Assistant – $5000
  • Mayor – $0

In her report, Ms McCall said the draft policy had been publicly advertised and one submission was received from a member of the public. The writer of that submission, who was not named, said the amendments to the credit card policy were welcome, but there still appeared to be a lack of accountability to ratepayers and elected members. “I believe the senior executive members of council are well remunerated for a small council and the use of credit cards be only authorised by the elected council.”

During the meeting, Cr Paul Belcher asked whether those staff members who were to be issued with credit cards should declare an interest and leave the room while the matter was debated. General manager Greg Winton and mayor Ben Shaw said this was not necessary as the cards were not for personal use.

Moving the motion to adopt the policy, Cr Martyn Evans said he supported the document but was concerned about the lack of transaction limits. Cr Paul Belcher seconded the motion and proposed that councillors be notified when each card reached its monthly limit, particularly as the new policy allowed cards to be “topped up”, which potentially doubled the limit on each card.

Addressing the issue of transaction limits, Cr Anne Salt said she had read what the document said, and feedback from the Local Government Division had been incorporated into the new policy. “Surely they would have picked up something like that if it was something that we needed to be concerned about,” Cr Salt said. Cr Shaw said he believed councillors Evans and Belcher were talking about the council’s appetite for risk.

Cr Evans then proposed that a single transaction limit of 50% of each card’s maximum limit be included in the motion and this was agreed to. No other councillors spoke to the motion and when put to the vote the new policy was approved unanimously.

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