A South Australian Liberal politician has admitted that while he was in opposition, he once signed some blank time sheets for his chauffeur while away on an overseas holiday.
- David Ridgway said he signed the time sheets before going on a family holiday
- He said he understood the driver needed the signed time sheets to get paid
- It comes as an ICAC investigation is examining allowances paid to country MPs
Trade Minister David Ridgway admitted to a government investigator and the SA Employment Tribunal that he signed the time sheets for a government chauffeur in 2016.
It is alleged the driver ferried around other Liberal MPs while Mr Ridgway was on a family holiday overseas.
Mr Ridgway said the blank time sheets were in place to support the team and he believed it was the only way the driver would get paid while he was away.
“I did sign some time sheets for my chauffeur … some four years ago now on the way to the airport to go away and visit my family,” he said.
“I did so on the basis that he was driving the acting leader, Michelle Lensink, while I was away and she had a function to go to.
“I also signed a couple of others in case there were other members going to need to use the car.”
‘I thought it was a little unusual’
He said he did so on the basis that he trusted his driver and understood the driver needed the time sheets to get paid.
“This is a guy that had driven [former premier] Mike Rann for 22 years and me for three or four [years] at the time and I trusted that what he asked me to do was acceptable practice,” he said.
“I thought it was a little unusual, I’d never done it before, but I was away for five weeks.
He said he signed the time sheets knowing Ms Lensink and Terry Stephens, who is now president of South Australia’s Legislative Council, were using the vehicle to attend an official function.
He said the incident and the driver had been investigated and there had been no finding of wrongdoing made against him.
However, he said the system has been tightened up since the Liberal Party had been in government, with an official handbook and electronic time sheets now used.
The incident comes as several South Australian MPs are being investigated amid a wider expenses scandal.
MPs to repay more than $70,000
On Thursday, South Australia’s Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC) Bruce Lander confirmed he would be examining 10 years of allowances paid to country MPs.
The $234-per-night Country Members Accommodation Allowance is only payable to regional MPs, whose homes are more than 75 kilometres from Adelaide, for when they are required to spend a night in the city on official business.
Both houses of Parliament released 10 years’ worth of allowance records on Tuesday, prompting five Liberal MPs to amend dates they had claimed it, and three of those MPs to repay a total of more than $70,000.
Documents relating to the claims remained secret until they were released earlier this week after an ABC investigation into the eligibility of some MPs.
Transport Minister Stephan Knoll, Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone and backbencher Fraser Ellis, have collectively agreed to repay more than $70,000.
It has also been revealed ministers Knoll and Whetstone billed taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars for regional, interstate and overseas travel on the same days they incorrectly claimed the allowance.
Premier Steven Marshall this week said the payments were claimed in error and denied there had been any deliberate wrongdoing.
But Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas today said Mr Ridgway’s actions were inappropriate.
“It’s on the back of a suite of scandals,” he said.
“This is a minister that is prone to extraordinary blunder and he’s got an incredibly important portfolio during the course of an economic crisis,” he said.
Earlier this week, he called on the Premier to “finally show leadership and sack his ministers”.