19th Apr 2017

Federal Government's $427 million travel bill

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Federal Government's $427 million travel bill
Drew Patchell

Recently released Department of Finance figures show the Government’s travel system bill for 201516 totalled $427 million, up $50 million on 201314 financial year figures.

The nation currently employs 155,000 public servants and the $427 million, when split evenly amongst this group, amounts to $2700 per public servant spent on travel and accommodation in 201516.

The most flown routes by government travellers in Australia were SydneyCanberra, MelbourneCanberra and CanberraBrisbane, while internationally, they were PerthChristmas Island, SydneyLos Angeles and SydneySingapore.

The government-wide system was established in 2010 in an effort to reduce costs and simplify the booking and administration process. The guidelines advise that public servants should book the lowest practical airline fare.



With video conferencing and other technology at their disposal, both sides of politics have demanded that public servants reconsider the need to travel for work.

What do you think? Does there need to be a full review of the Government travel system? Should public servants found to be needlessly over-spending be made to repay the money?

Read more at canberratimes.com.au

Related articles:
Tony Abbott’s ultimate pub test
Former MPs’ allowances battle
Five common travel mistakes





COMMENTS

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China
19th Apr 2017
10:42am
Just interested to know do the government retrieve all the travel points to reuse. Or as I suspect they are being used by the individual as their own. This is wrong if they are, as, the tax payer paid for the travel not the individual be it Pollie or Public Servant.
johninmelb
19th Apr 2017
12:21pm
In a report I read yesterday, it stated that public servants were not permitted to accumulate frequent flier points. They were pooled and used for government travel where possible.
Eddy
19th Apr 2017
12:42pm
I believe the actual position today re travel points is that the government has entered into contracts with the airlines which precludes the accumulation of points.
In the 'old' days any points accumulated by individual public service travellers had to be declared and used for departmental travel as required. I know I made several official trips, usually between Canberra and Melbourne, using my Frequent Flyer points.
I do not know how politicians used their points but the rumour at the time was that they could use them at their discretion.
While the use of video conferencing seems attractive it is not as productive as a face to face meeting.
Pamiea
19th Apr 2017
11:08am
Totally disgusting expenditure. Use video conferencing you lazy sloths. I worked in a government dept where mother, father and son all went from Perth up to Meekatharra to check that refuges were ok but they didn't have permission in Meekatharra to enter. What a rort and a further rort having three family members working for the same department. The government has a LOT TO ANSWER FOR. SHAME ON YOU WHO RORT THE SYSTEM!
Eddy
19th Apr 2017
1:01pm
Pamiea, video conferencing has severe limitations, not the least being the actual infrastructure involved, there are a limited number of 'studios' available. As an engineer it was nigh on impossible to explain even simple engineering concepts to 'lay' persons without a face to face meeting. Even between engineers, where 'mud maps' and diagrams along with mathematical proofs were necessary, face to face was the optimum. Similarly I sometimes had difficulty understanding the complex finance that are bread and butter to accountants.
If we had meetings that were suitable for videoconferencing it was often more effective to simply use teleconferencing using our desktop telephones.
Wstaton
19th Apr 2017
1:25pm
Wot and miss out on a holiday in Singapore.
KSS
19th Apr 2017
10:13pm
Eddy is quite right video-conferencing does have limitations. I use video-conferencing at least twice a week for meetings between people in Sydney, Brisbane and Victoria and issues do arise with technology. We can even share screens and show documents but again issues do arise with this. Personally I would hate to have to this with interpreters/translators for example. Video-conferencing absolutely does have its place but it is not the panacea for all meetings.
noremaci
19th Apr 2017
11:25am
Year after year we suffer these rorts and keep hearing from both sides of Government that they will do something about the wastage yet, clearly, the problem continues and is getting worse. In simple terms a large number of our representatives in the Government sector are inclined to be greedy & extremely selfish. A severe case of 'Buggar you Jack - I,m alright'.
floss
19th Apr 2017
11:26am
Bring on the next election.
Knight Templar
19th Apr 2017
2:25pm
Do you honestly believe that an election will make any difference?
Old Geezer
19th Apr 2017
2:34pm
....and the $427 million will only double.
Not Senile Yet!
19th Apr 2017
11:26am
They simply do not give a Flying #$$#!
So...when they don't neither does anyone else!
This is why the LNP Policy is De-Regulate EVERYTHING!!!!
It amoints to sacking the Police...The Checkers...so then its a FREE FOR ALL for every MP and the Public Servants are simply...Monkey See Monkey Do!
Especially when the Regulators/Enforcers/Police.....have all been paid off or paid out in the Governments Slash & Burn of Staff to cut costs!
The Reality is....No one is Left to check on anyone!
Just a Bunch of thieving parasites....the zlot of them!
johnp
19th Apr 2017
12:01pm
Agree with most here. Also like to know if that amount includes what the politicians spend on their travel perks etc. Assume the $427 million includes the pollies travel ?
It is damning esp considering the situation with the budget deficit; this area needs to be reined in substantially.
LifeChoices should raise this in the media like the current affairs etc. That would also raise LifeChoices profile.
johninmelb
19th Apr 2017
12:45pm
I can't speak for the federal government, but I did work for state government.

There was a strict travel policy - especially for overseas travel where approval had to be sought from the Secretary before. And proposals were often rejected before it even got to the top for approval.

You can rest assured that I was one public servant who made sure all the rules were obeyed when I booked travel for my managers. Everything I did followed the policy to the letter, and I was never queried on any matter. Every manager I worked for knew that I required every receipt, ticket, boarding pass etc. on their return OR ELSE! No receipt, no claim. I drummed it in to them over and over again.

Yes, video conferencing can be used for some meetings, and in my department it was used, as I am sure it was used in others. It was mostly used in cases where a meeting had to be held quickly, and there was no time to get everyone required from all over the country to a single place.

What most people here won't know, or understand is that it is not possible to use non-flexible fares, where you buy the cheapest fare which cannot be refunded, or changed. What we did have to do was try and get the best fare of the day, that could be changed. In my last job, we knew at the beginning of the year the dates for the 8 interstate meetings my manager was required to attend. They were pretty much set in concrete, given the logistics of getting people from every state and territory to the meeting. So I never really had any problems getting economical fares. But things can change in the blink of an eye. We are talking about real life here.

With hotels we had less flexibility. Where possible we booked the hotel where the conference was held, to facilitate informal meetings with participants, and to minimise taxis, etc. But if the cost was greater than the government approved rate, then sorry, the boss had to go elsewhere.

The figures quoted are excessive, no doubt about that. But it just needs more rigour and tweaks to the policy to tighten things up.
Wstaton
19th Apr 2017
1:35pm
Let,s face it with the governments Marnta, "plate enterpise can do it more efficiently and cheaper" no wonder this liberal government cannot be efficient as they a all for big business taking over everything. We have really seen just how inefficient private enterprise has been increasing efficiency and costs to us. Why should this current government be any different.
Wstaton
19th Apr 2017
1:36pm
Would be Mantra
billie
19th Apr 2017
1:48pm
Waiting for the day when the "POWER THAT BE" says enough is enough and cuts out all the lurks and perks for retired pollies,
bob
19th Apr 2017
3:29pm
that would be the day that they use normal super funds and link their pay to performance
Triss
19th Apr 2017
1:57pm
Australia now is well down on the Transparency International's corruption perception. In 2012 we were 8th and in 2016 we'd dropped to 13th.
In the uncontrolled travel expenses we can see at least one of the reasons our governments and politicians have narrowed the gap between Australian political corruption and third world political corruption.
Rodent
19th Apr 2017
3:02pm
Apologies to all, OFF TOPIC BUT - here is an item worthy of discussion. Heading from this months Super Guide articles. You need to read the main article to get all the story details.

• SUPER LOOPHOLE BENEFITS POLITICIANS AND SENIOR BUREAUCRATS. We have discovered a super loophole providing senior politicians and bureaucrats an unfair tax advantage when dealing with the $1.6 million transfer balance cap. Not a good look considering the stress the pollies (and senior advisers) have caused Australians by introducing so many super changes, and by also cutting the Age Pension payments to more than 300,000 Australians.
Culgoa
19th Apr 2017
4:41pm
Bloody disgraceful and they have the hide to cut welfare and health benefits. Just a pack of useless, overpaid, egotistical, power hungry idiots. Their level of incompetence is staggering.
Eddy
19th Apr 2017
8:11pm
Do not label them as incompetent, they are very competent at what they do which is 'cut welfare and health benefits' as well as find inventive ways to circumvent the rules covering travel and accommodation entitlements. However it may be unfair to tar all politicians with the same brush, in all likelihood there are probably some honest ones, all we have to do is identify them.
George
19th Apr 2017
9:22pm
Disgusting, disgraceful, self-serving leeches! We need to be very careful who we vote for - too many don't pay attention at election time and keep voting in these people.
KSS
19th Apr 2017
10:19pm
Does this also include the 'study tours' retiring politicians take leading up to their resignations?
inextratime
19th Apr 2017
11:00pm
I know the system is being abused. I have friends who work in the Public Service who are taking trips that are absolutely unnecessary. Some departments may have stringent rules but I know that some do not. Probably the best evidence that we have too many politicians and too many public servants.
MICK
20th Apr 2017
12:26am
The abuse of public money by our political cretins is well known. There needs to be laws for these criminals who believe money is free. Sadly THEY make the laws and will never make laws to harm themselves, only taxpayers and ordinary citizens.
Wally 56
20th Apr 2017
1:10am
It's all just a big racket set up by the airlines to milk the max out of Governments and big business - and some high flying staff milk the system for all its worth.

Let me explain:
Because travel dates and times can change or get cancelled, Govt. & big corporates ONLY fly with "Y" class tickets which are fully time flexible and refundable ..... only catch is they cost about 4 to 5 times as much as a non-flexible economy ticket!

E.g., a normal limited flexible air return to Europe may be $1,700 but the same thing (economy ticket) under "Y" class (that can be cancelled with full refund) is some $7,000 !

I wonder how many buy the "Y" class ticket ..... and then the day before travel staff buy the non-flexi $1,700 ticket to fly on .... they cancel & get the $7,000 refunded but back at work they show their original $7,000 receipt to HR Dept. for expense reimbursement ?

Nice pick-up of $5,300 thank you very much .... it's a common rort if you speak to an honest Travel Agent!

Time for Govt. & big corporates to close these rorted loopholes that taxpayers and shareholders are paying for!
johninmelb
20th Apr 2017
2:47pm
Don't know about big corporates, they are a law unto themselves.

However the rest of your diatribe is complete rubbish.

Federal public servants are subject to a Whole of Australian Government travel contract, administered by the Department of Finance, which I think is currently held by Qantas, but I maybe wrong.

Public servants do not pay for their own travel, it is organised and paid for them prior to travel. If they are claiming any reimbursement, then it is only for incidentals, though some departments possibly use a per diem arrangement, where the traveller is allocated a set sum of money for daily expenditure.

I will not deny that rorting occurs, it is a scourge everywhere, both in government and private enterprise. Someone will always find a loophole and try to exploit it. Eventually they get caught.

A long long time ago, a lot of people were done for rorting the old Travel Allowance system in the PMG/Telecom. I was a junior at the time, but I know my then boss was rorting the system. The then allowance was say $100 a night for a Sydney hotel and meals. He would book a $40 a night dive, and pocket the difference. Later, when I had to go on a trip to train staff in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, he told me to do the same. I preferred to spend the money I was given on a decent hotel and meals so I could do my job properly. I remember he and I both went to Brisbane on a trip one time. He stayed in some cheap motel out in the boonies, and I stayed at the Hilton, and still had $10 left over. So yes, I pocketed $10. Guess that explains why I am broke and on the pension now.
1945 yorkie
20th Apr 2017
12:00pm
Absolutely disgraceful.No wonder politicians are reviled by the ordinary person.We mere mortals have to pay our own travel expenses,wait until we are 65(now longer) and if we are caught rorting the system we are prosecuted.Politicians on the other hand pay the money back(sometimes) if they wish,there is no compulsion.Those who agree with the present system need think a little more and not blindly support it due to their political persuation.
Eddy
20th Apr 2017
12:18pm
A thought came to me overnight, what are we looking at when the governments travel bill is $400M plus. What does this include. When it is stated that there are 155,000 public servants does that include the 70.000 in the armed forces who are also government employees.
My initial thoughts that this was politicians and public servants travelling on business, but is it. And is it all airline travel, it may include other forms of transport such as taxis and road trips in hire cars.
The government travel bill may encompass many non-discretionary travel items such as military leave, emergency leave for military, deploying military overseas, law enforcement and border protection, immigration, diplomatic, as well as taking politicians home after parliamentary sittings and back to Canberra. There are also the public commitments of the Prime Minister and Ministers in carrying out their public duties. There are certainly areas which could be critically looked at, such a overseas study travel for groups of MPs.
Until we see a breakdown on how this money was expended much of the vitriol splashed about this forum is possibly ill-informed.
johninmelb
20th Apr 2017
2:30pm
Members of the Military Forces, ie uniform, are not regarded as public servants. Strongly suspect movement of troops would be included in the military budget. They tend not to use civilian aircraft etc, unless on charter.

However, public servants working in the Defence Department, ie non-uniform staff, are included in the figures we've been given as they are subject to using the Whole of Government travel arrangements contract set up by Dept of Finance.

You are correct in that the travel budget does include all forms of travel, not just air. Not sure about politicians travel cost. They are covered by the Department of Finance. Again, in the strict sense of the word, politicians are not public servants. Their circumstances, and travel requirements are very different.
Eddy
20th Apr 2017
5:21pm
Thank you John, but surely 'Whole of Government travel arrangements would include military movements and politicians travel, they are also part of 'Whole of Government'. The accrual accounting used in government identifies all types of travel expenditure; the same system is used by the military and, presumably, by parliament. I can assure you that the overwhelming majority of military travel is by scheduled civilian carriers or charters not service transport.