Mayor threatens to cut up expense cards
Dozens of Christchurch City Council staff could have their purchasing credit cards (P-cards) cut up after fresh spending records have left new Mayor Lianne Dalziel "embarrassed, shocked and horrified".
Hundreds of coffees, dozens of expensive meals, numerous gifts and several staff farewells were all put on ratepayer-funded credit cards over the last two financial years.
Ratepayers even forked out for a council staff member to restock their lolly jar.
In the 2012-13 year, staff spent $187,680 on entertainment, gifts and catering. The year before, $175,799 was put on the plastic.
Dalziel said it proved there was "a culture of excess and entitlement" at the council.
The figures were released to if The Press under the Official Information Act and yesterday prompted acting chief executive Jane Parfitt to issue a staff-wide notice expressing her disappointment.
And The Press has now made the data on council spending accessible to you, the ratepayers. Click on the links below to check out the data. You can even create tables and graphs on the council's spending.
ACCESS THE DATA
TOP 10 ENTERTAINMENT SPENDS, 2012
NO MORE BOOZE AND GIFTS
No more alcohol-related claims will be approved unless they are related to Christmas staff events and Parfitt has also stopped what had become the popular practice of buying gifts to celebrate births and parental leave celebrations.
"I am unhappy with the amount being charged to credit cards for catering and gifts. Money is tight and we need to be extra careful in the way that we spend ratepayer money," she said.
That move came just days after Dalziel ordered her new council to bring their own lunches to work or to pay for their own food when on the job.
More than 450 of the council's 2800 staff have a P-card. Most have monthly credit limits of $5000 but a $10,000 limit applies to general and unit managers.
Parfitt said most staff were following the P-card policy but ''a few staff''' were not.
That policy said the cards are for buying ''low value'' goods and services.
'CULTURE OF EXCESS'
Dalziel promised a full review would soon be debated by the new council.
''There has been a culture of excess and entitlement, people have slipped into bad habits and it has got to stop.''
She planned to lead by example by refusing to have a P-card. She said she had an account at the nearby Club Tower Cafe - a popular spot for council workers - but uses her own money to top that account up and keep it in credit.
Dalziel said she was embarrassed when she looked at the full statement of spending.
''I can think of some headlines for this [story] already. When I looked at this, I was shocked, horrified and what it did was reinforce my view there is a culture of excess and entitlement in this (council) building.''
The council has at least four policies related to P-card spending that covered catering and staff recognition.
Dalziel wanted an ''over-arching'' policy and to also limit the number of staff who are issued with a credit card.
''It (P-card spending) has obviously got out of hand.''
The policy clearly stated staff should not use their P-card to buy coffees and other beverages when they were out of the council building on council business but an extensive spreadsheet of spending shows that has been breached dozens of times.
"There are clearly examples where staff have gone against that policy and that will stop."
The council provided coffee and tea for all staff and Dalziel and Parfitt had both made it clear staff were expected to pay for their own coffees off-site, including the council's in-house Kitchen Cafe, which featured prominently on staff P-card reports.
There was a place for P-cards but Dalziel said they should be restricted to certain managers.
"It doesn't matter how little the spending is; if you let that culture creep into an organisation, this is what happens."
A spokeswoman for Local Government Minister Chris Tremain said central government had showed restraint on spending in this way and he expected the same should apply to the local government sector.
He was unavailable to directly comment on any issues around the city council's P-card spending behaviour. It is not the first time the council has been stung with a credit card controversy.
In July 2010, former mayor Bob Parker repaid more than $600 worth of coffees, muffins and other cafe food he charged to his mayoral credit card.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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