Last week the ABC revealed former Hay Shire Council general manager Allen Dwyer’s corporate card had more than $500,000 in charges over three years.
Earlier statements obtained under FOI laws showed the bill since 2009 was more than twice that. The stories have sparked a NSW Government crackdown, with Minister Gabrielle Upton launching a state-wide spending audit.
“We want to make sure that some of the concerns and allegations that were raised in Hay Shire Council are things that are tested in other councils,” she said.
“It’s about making sure that ratepayer money is used for the right reasons by the right people.”
Mr Dwyer is now the general manager at Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council and has been suspended from his role for two-weeks on full pay.
NSW’s Office of Local Government (OLG) is investigating Hay Shire Council’s books, and the ABC understands they are considering a formal review of Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council.
Expenditure ‘has been repaid’
Between 2009 and 2014 an additional $83,100 in cash advances and almost $550,000 were charged to Allen Dwyer’s card.
One statement is missing and was unable to be located by Hay Shire Council.
The investigation has uncovered more than $150,000 in cash advances and at least $1 million in transactions over eight years.
Mr Dwyer said most payments were for official business such as travel and training of staff, and that “four or five staff also had access to the card”.
With permission of council, Mr Dwyer regularly charged personal expenses like WiFi, fuel and travel to the card, repaying those in salary deductions.
“Any personal expenditure incurred has been repaid in full,” he said.
“And everything was audited and certified by the Mayor.”
Eventually $117,000 was repaid by Dwyer, some in monthly payments, and some as lump sums.
Sewing supplies and candles on card
Items like women’s clothing accessories, sewing supplies and even aromatherapy candles also appear on the statements.
The documents revealed thousands of dollars in travel had been billed to the card, some of which Mr Dwyer conceded was for personal reasons.
My Dwyer said a cash withdrawal made on a personal trip to the St Patricks racing carnival in Broken Hill was a “mistake on my part, from using the wrong card and was repaid to Council immediately”.
Mr Dwyer said he also repaid accommodation for two staff members’ travel to Broken Hill.
“Quite often I charged back charges that were in any way doubtful,” he said.
Hay councillor Kevin Walter said ratepayers had welcomed the OLG investigation and hoped it would clarify the card’s spending history.
“It’s good that it’s being finally run to ground, its taken a long time and there’ll be a lot of relieved people about when the findings do come up,” he said.
Mr Dwyer told the ABC his book-keeping “cut some corners” but that the card was independently audited twice a year.
“When practices were challenged an immediate suite of changes were implemented,” he said.
Hay Mayor Bill Sheaffe has been contacted for comment.