SA ombudsman finds maladministration in ‘generous’ council allowance for CEO vehicle

South Australia’s ombudsman has found a regional council committed “maladministration” by giving its chief executive a council-issued fuel card when he was also being paid a vehicle and mileage allowance.

In his report, ombudsman Wayne Lines found the chief executive of the unnamed council was being paid a $15,000 flat fee each year as part of his salary to compensate him for not having a council car.

He said the CEO was also claiming 77 cents a kilometer he traveled for council business and could use a council-issued card to pick up his fuel bills.

Mr Lines said the vehicle and mileage allowances were a “particularly generous arrangement”, but the fuel card was a “duplication” to cover the cost of oil.

“The CEO should have received one entitlement or the other – not both,” Mr Lines said.

“I consider the council committed maladministration.”

In 2015, the council carried a motion to allow its boss to be reimbursed at 77 cents per kilometre for his own car, which would cost the council less than $10,000 per year.

The report stated the Australian Tax Office recommended mileage rate was 68 cents per kilometre.

SA Ombudsman Wayne Lines wearing a blue shirt and black jacket
Ombudsman Wayne Lines said the council was unable to explain the reasons behind its decisions.(ABC News: Isabel Dayman)

Mr Lines said that in 2018 the chief executive’s performance review report was put to the council for endorsement, which included the vehicle and mileage allowance, as well as a fuel card for “business use only”.

“The motion was put and lost,” Mr Lines said.

He said the motion was amended to remove the reference to “business use only”.

“This is evidence of a clear intention by the elected members that the fuel card could be used for both business and personal use,” Mr Lines said.

He said the chief executive was issued with a BP fuel card.

Administration overpaid mileage

The report found in 2018 the council also passed a resolution to amend the mileage rate in line with the ATO recommendation – but the council administration continued to reimburse the chief executive at 77 cents per kilometre.

Mr Lines stated the man received the $15,000 vehicle allowance, claimed $18,188 in mileage and spent $6,155 on the fuel card in 2019.

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