'Antiquated' IT behind MP expenses reporting to be overhauled, says Turnbull

Proposes close to real-time publication of claims following UK model

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced reforms to MPs expenses, including an overhaul of the “antiquated” IT system currently in use.

Speaking at a press conference in the wake of health minister Sussan Ley’s resignation on Friday afternoon, the prime minister said he was proposing a transparent and accessible record of parliamentarians’ expenses in the model of the UK’s Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

Turnbull said the new system would be “searchable” and updated “as close to real-time” as possible.

“If you look at what the UK does…the information is put up there very promptly. You can go to any member of the House of Commons and you can see what they have spent and why they spent it and so forth. It is very easily searchable. That is what we need to do,” Turnbull said.

The proposal follows intense scrutiny of a number of politicians’ expenses after a number were found to have travelled to sporting events and New Years Eve parties on the public purse.

Ley originally stood aside from cabinet while a number of taxpayer-funded flights to the Gold Coast, where she and her partner own a property, were investigated. She resigned earlier today.

“One of the problems that we have with the existing system is that the IT is absolutely antiquated,” Turnbull said. “It is very – most of the forms are filled in by the politicians by hand. It is all paper-based. The reports that you do find on the Department of Finance website are big PDF files. They are, you know, months out-of-date when they are posted.

"I am firmly of the view that transparency is the key. Sunlight is the best medicine. It will ensure that politicians are very aware of what they are spending, very, very aware, even more aware than they are now, and, of course, it will provide great reassurance."

The new system was part of a suite of reforms to MP entitlements announced by Turnbull, which included the establishment of an independent compliance body to oversee parliamentary expenses.

Staff at a number of federal departments – including the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, The Treasury and the Department of Finance which currently handles MP expenses – are already using a fully digital expenses system called Expense8, from Sydney-based company 8common.

Speaking to CIO Australia last year, 8common CEO Nick Gonios said his company was up for the challenge of implementing an MP expense system.

“We have proven capabilities to provide such a system with our existing customers,” he said. “There is an opportunity here for 8common to automate, provide policy compliance, and transparency across expense and travel management and we are up for the challenge to work with federal government to make this possible.”

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Tags Malcolm Turnbullexpenseshealthcanberrapdfprime ministertravelDepartment of Prime Minister and CabinetDepartment of Financethe treasuryParliament

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