Council card spending: What staff put on their cards

COUNCIL staff bought more than $63,000 worth of coffee with their work purchase cards in the past three years.

Documents released under Freedom of Information laws by the City of Ballarat have uncovered tens of thousands of transactions made on the cards.

They reveal the descriptions given by staff members for items purchased with the cards, including $34,693 for coffee in the most recent financial year alone.

Between the 2010 and 2013 financial years, council staff also spent $139,826 on meals, $134,566 on gifts, and $105,224 on iPads and iPhones. Nearly $29,000 was spent on biscuits, cakes and slices.

Analysis of the transactions also shows that $34,569 was spent on drinks and alcohol, with $61,031 spent on subscriptions - including $80 on the "magazine of ideas" Philosophy Now.

In an interview with The Courier, senior council officers said the purchase cards system made it easier to catch out those who were misusing their cards.

City of Ballarat chief executive officer Anthony Schinck said when a staff member put a meeting at a cafe on their purchase card, an explanation was needed on what took place.

"There should be information about who they've met, so we know what the meeting was about," he said.

"If you use the purchase card, expect somebody to query why you've clocked up 20 coffee meetings in two weeks."

City of Ballarat chief financial officer Glenn Kallio said auditors often checked transaction receipts for things like coffee to see if it was related to their work.

"Some positions in council you would expect that because they meet people on a regular basis and that would be part of their job," he said. 

"Someone else you would say 'you should never be going out for coffee, so why are you doing it?'"

HOW WE ANALYSED THE DATA.

Mr Schinck said while some people in the public might think too much was spent on hospitality, it was necessary for council work.

He said that much of the money was spent meeting government ministers or business leaders to talk about major projects, which warranted the cost.

"Sometimes we do spend a considerable amount of money on those things in terms of what the general public would see as reasonable," he said.

"(But) all that work is focused on lobbying, networking and meetings to try and advance projects that are relevant to Ballarat."

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