While MaPS has a role in providing you and your staff with advice and assistance, it remains your responsibility to familiarise yourself with the resources available to you, and the conditions applying to those resources. You must ensure that your use of public resources is not only lawful, but publicly justifiable, and that you act ethically and in good faith.
Consequences of contravening your obligations
On receipt of a claim, MaPS may request evidence or compliance information from you to determine whether the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017 (PBR Act) has been complied with. This may include further information about how your claim meets the dominant purpose or value for money tests, or specific conditions that apply to the resource.
If you contravene the dominant purpose test, value for money test or any conditions that apply to the provision of the public resource, including where the contravention occurs when your staff make arrangements on your behalf concerning resources you claim under the PBR Act:
- your claim may be rejected or have to be repaid.
- any amount not repaid within 28 days of an incorrect claim attracts a 25% penalty loading, and is a debt due to the Commonwealth, which may be recovered in court or set off against future amounts otherwise payable to you.
Penalty scheme – loadings for contraventions and repayments
The PBR Act imposes loadings that apply to:
- public resources which you claim in contravention of your PBR obligations
- voluntary repayments you make in respect of claims for public resources where you have not contravened your obligations.
The loadings do not apply in relation to your remuneration, including your residential internet and telephone expenses, private plated vehicle and electorate allowance.
Public resources subject to the loading include:
- domestic and international travel expenses, including COMCAR and Canberra-based self-drive vehicles
- travel allowances, including for overnight stays away from the parliamentarian’s home base, and private vehicle allowance
- office accommodation (such as electorate offices, additional offices for certain office holders and ministerial offices), visiting suites at CPOs and resources for those offices, and satellite office expenses
- the office expenses budget, postage costs for official duties, photographic services at Parliament House, flags provided under the Chamber Flag Program, and additional resources provided to the Leader of the Opposition during election periods
- additional public resources determined by the Minister in exceptional circumstances.
Penalty loading where you have contravened your PBR obligations
If you contravene any of the following obligations:
- the dominant purpose test
- the value for money test
- any condition that applies to the expense, allowance or other public resource
your claim may be rejected or have to be repaid.
If the full amount of the claim is repaid within 28 calendar days of the claim, a loading will not apply.
Any amount not repaid within 28 calendar days after the day of the claim attracts a 25% penalty loading and is a debt due to the Commonwealth. 'Claim' is a defined term under the PBR Act, and includes an expense you have incurred which is payable by the Commonwealth – for example, office stationery purchased through the Commonwealth’s contracted provider.
Any debt may be recovered from you in the relevant court or the Commonwealth may reduce the amount of public resources payable to you in the future to recover your debt relating to an incorrect claim. In this circumstance a determination is made by MaPS or the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (IPEA) (whichever is the relevant administrator) following consultation with the parliamentarian.
No loading is payable where there was an overpayment made due to an administrative error within the Commonwealth, as in this case there would be no contravention by the parliamentarian of the relevant obligations.
In addition, no debt or loading applies where a parliamentarian relies on incorrect personal travel advice given by IPEA that they would not contravene their obligations. No such safeharbour exists in relation to advice provided by any other administrator, including MaPS.
Loading in respect of voluntary repayments
Where you make a voluntary repayment where you have not contravened your obligations, a loading of up to 25% of the claim applies.
For example, you may voluntarily repay a claim if you consider it to be out of step with community expectations.
In such circumstances, a loading of to up to 25% of the voluntary repayment applies if the repayment is made more than 28 calendar days after the day of the claim. The relevant administrator (either MaPS or IPEA) determines the amount of the loading following consultation with you, the parliamentarian.
The loading is offset against future claims for public resources you make – that is, future payments will be reduced by the amount of the loading. Alternatively, you may choose to pay the amount of the loading voluntarily instead of the loading applying to future claims.
No loading is payable where there was an overpayment made due to an administrative error within the Commonwealth.
If it has been found that you contravened your PBR obligations, the claim is subject to the penalty loading regardless of whether you voluntarily repaid the claim. This is because the loading in respect of voluntary repayments only applies where you have not contravened your PBR obligations.
'Day of the claim' for repayment and loading
For the calculation of the 28 days, the ‘day of the claim’ is the day on which you make the claim. 'Claim' is defined in the PBR Act as:
- a claim or request for public resources that is made to the Commonwealth or
- the incurring of expenses that are payable by the Commonwealth.
The day of claim will therefore depend on the type of public resource and arrangement under which the resource is provided. If you submit a claim to MaPS or IPEA either by the Parliamentary Expenses Management System (PEMS) or a claim form, the day of claim is the date you submit the claim. If the expense is incurred by the Commonwealth by virtue of its contractual arrangements with preferred providers (for example, via the Commonwealth’s contracted office stationery and supplies provider), the day of claim is the date you receive the goods or services.
The day of claim is intended to connect to the point in time that the Commonwealth becomes liable to pay for, or provide, the particular resource.
Handling potentially incorrect claims or misuse of non-travel related work expenses
IPEA is responsible for the audit functions relating to your travel and work expenses, and the travel expenditure of your staff. These functions include reviewing the use and potential misuse of work expenses.
Concerns about potential misuse of work expenses may arise in various ways. For example, queries or complaints may be directed to MaPS, IPEA or the Minister, prompted by media coverage, or identified through MaPS’ or IPEA’s internal review procedures.
MaPS will not generally respond to the person/s who have raised concerns, nor provide information on the progress of a review or of any actions taken.
When an issue regarding the potential misuse of work expense is raised or identified, MaPS will consider whether it relates to travel by a parliamentarian or MOP(S) Act employee. Travel related matters will be transferred to IPEA.
If the issue does not relate to travel related expenses, it will be considered by MaPS under the Protocol (see related resources). The current version of the Protocol was tabled by the Special Minister of State on 24 October 2017.
MaPS will conduct an initial assessment, which may include examining the relevant internal records, to determine if the matter is credible.
If the matter is found to be not credible, MaPS will take no further action. If the matter is determined to be credible, MaPS will take the further action outlined below.
Where a matter is found to be credible but is considered minor, MaPS may seek further information from the parliamentarian, within specified timeframes, or an explanation of the use of the expense.
What constitutes a minor matter is assessed on a case-by-case basis. Relevant factors may include:
- the value of expenses involved
- whether it appears that the misuse was unintentional or deliberate
- whether it appears that the misuse is an isolated incident or habitual.
Following consideration of any response by the relevant parliamentarian, MaPS can:
- determine that no further action is required
- consider administrative action such as repayment
- determine that further action is required as set out below.
MaPS may undertake a review of matters, including engaging a third party to assist with or to conduct the review. MaPS does not have statutory powers to obtain information. All information and documentation are provided on a voluntary basis.
Reviews will be conducted in accordance with the principles of procedural fairness. This will include providing the parliamentarian with an opportunity to comment on allegations which are the subject of the review or any adverse findings.
Parliamentarians may request a review of non-travel related work expenses matters within their office by contacting the MaPS Help Desk.
MaPS will decide whether it is appropriate to publish any outcomes in relation to any matter considered under the Protocol on a case-by-case basis having regard to public interest considerations and obligations under the Privacy Act 1988.
Referral to IPEA or the Australian Federal Police
Where a matter is of a more serious nature, MaPS will refer the matter to IPEA. Any further action would then be a matter for IPEA.
MaPS may also refer a potential criminal matter to the Australian Federal Police.
Monthly management reports
IPEA will provide you with detailed monthly management reports of your expenditure.
It is your responsibility to check the accuracy of reports and inform IPEA immediately of any amendments to ensure work expenses are accurately recorded.
Quarterly expenditure reports
IPEA publishes a quarterly report on the work expenses you claim. Prior to publishing, you will be asked to check the details in the report and certify that your claims have been in accordance with the legislated requirements.