Council card spending: purchases blacked out

MORE than 2500 City of Ballarat staff purchase card transactions worth more than $750,000 have been blacked out before being publicly released under Freedom of Information laws. 

An investigation into council spending by The Courier  uncovered nearly 40,000 purchase card transactions made by staff during the 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 financial years.

It found that a total of $6.8 million was spent using the cards in the same period, with the bill coming to $3.7 million in the most recent year.

WHAT WAS PURCHASED.

While many of the descriptions for the purchases are included in the documents, there are also thousands that have been blacked out.

Analysis of the transactions found 2587 transactions either partially or fully redacted between July 2010 and June 2013.

The total value of those purchases was $751,282.

The redactions appear to apply to council staff and managers, as in the case of a $321 purchase explained as “Round table for REDACTED office”.

Some purchases have been partially redacted – such as a $2355.93 transaction for “REDACTED New York Summit” – while others have been completely blacked out.

They include two purchases both  worth $2520.

In other instances, the information removed appears to protect people outside the organisation or companies from which council procures its goods. 

Under section 33 of the Freedom of Information Act, government bodies are allowed to remove information from documents for privacy reasons.

City of Ballarat chief financial officer Glenn Kallio said many of the payments had been redacted to protect the identify of council’s suppliers.

“We’ve got be careful with what we hand out because there could be a commercial-in-confidence agreements we’ve got with them,” he said.

“If someone else got that, it takes away the competitive nature.”

tom.cowie@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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