SA ministers 'sloppy' in allowance claims

SA Treasurer Rob Lucas says MPs who wrongly claimed allowances were sloppy but shouldn't be sacked.
SA Treasurer Rob Lucas says MPs who wrongly claimed allowances were sloppy but shouldn't be sacked.

South Australian ministers who wrongly claimed parliamentary allowances were "sloppy" but don't deserve to be sacked, Treasurer Rob Lucas says.

Mr Lucas says the mistakes in relation to money claimed for accommodation expenses were unacceptable as the Labor opposition reaffirmed calls of those at fault to go.

"What's occurred has been sloppy, it's been unacceptable," the treasurer told reporters on Wednesday.

"Most members of the public would be disappointed in the administrative practices of a number of members of parliament."

Country MP allowance records for the past decade were tabled in parliament on Tuesday, revealing some administrative errors among tens of thousands of transactions.

Among those caught out making mistakes were Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone and Transport Minister Stephan Knoll.

Mr Whetsone has paid back about $7000 wrongly claimed while Mr Knoll has admitted to finding three errors but has opted to return everything he claimed since 2018, thought to be more than $29,000.

Premier Steven Marshall said he did not believe there had been any deliberate dishonesty but called for more transparency over the allowance provisions in the future.

Mr Lucas agreed and said the members involved had a genuine view that they were entitled to the expense allowances and the ministers caught up in the row did should not be dismissed.

He said it was not a matter of the issue "passing the pub test", but a matter of what the law was.

"In some cases they made errors and they have been clarified and withdrawn," he said.

"There have been sloppy practices over many years and the fact there was virtually no public reporting has led to that particular practice."

But Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas said the government's response was inadequate.

"The premier has got an obligation to act and immediately dismiss those ministers who have clearly done the wrong thing," he said.

"These are not administrative errors. We're talking about dozens of claims and tens of thousands of dollars that have left the pockets of taxpayers and gone directly into the pockets of cabinet ministers."

Under current rules, country MPs in South Australia are able to claim an accommodation allowance of $234 a night for when they leave their electorates and visit Adelaide on parliamentary or other work-related business.

But the money claimed is only published once a year and then only the total figure for each MP.

In response, the government has asked the state's Remuneration Tribunal to consider changes to the rules, requiring the amounts claimed to be published monthly.

It has also asked the tribunal to clarify exactly what expenses country MPs are entitled to claim.

"These things have to be clarified by the tribunal, investigated by the auditor-general to make sure there's transparency and accountability from this day forward," Mr Lucas said.

Australian Associated Press