QLDC details $132,000 credit-card bill

The Queenstown Lakes District Council spent $132,461.02 on its single credit card in two years, including a $700 art voucher as a leaving present for former chief executive Duncan Field.

The figures were released under the Official Information Act after the Otago Daily Times requested credit-card statements from the council of all expenditure since July 2008.

The council's policy states $200 can be spent on employees who have served nine years, such as Mr Field.

Higher amounts need to be approved by the chief executive or the mayor.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Clive Geddes said he approved the council contribution and reimbursed the council with $300 of his own money.

"I am very comfortable with the decision we made at the time. After nine years of working 60- or 70-hour weeks the contribution to his gift by the council and the community was very modest indeed," Mr Geddes said.

"I have no problem defending my authorisation of the increase whatsoever."

The council also used the card to pay a $32,000 payment "in lieu of notice", and almost $2000 for drinks for 250 people at a farewell party at the Memorial Hall.

Other gifts on the credit card were a $253.75 15-year anniversary gift for Greg Hartshorne, and a $225 10-year milestone present for accountant Angus Welsh.

The credit-card expenses show $1091.55 was spent on food and drink for the 10-person finance team, including $281 on a staff lunch and $91.87 for a case of wine, and $584.30 on two Christmas functions.

QLDC finance manager Stewart Burns said social club reimbursed the council for the $103.88 cost of wine and refreshments.

"The credit card is another means of making some payments and generally is only used to access certain deals on websites," he said.

District secretary Kelly Campbell said the council had one credit card with a limit of $10,000, in the name of Mr Welsh.

Any member of staff could use the purchase-order system for purchases on the credit card but needed managerial approval.

She said the council did not have a policy for the use of the credit card but the staff expenses/reimbursements (including travel and accommodation) policy was used to determine what could be spent.

Total food and drink expenses on the card were $2700.90, including $678.90 on lunch meetings for the governance team every two months.

"Because the team is located in three different locations, it is important that the team get together at least every eight weeks to discuss work matters regularly and I find it productive to do this throughout the district's cafes, supporting local businesses," Ms Campbell said.

Other departments used council money to pay for occasional working lunches of up to $15 per person, or $25 at Christmas, but did not use the credit card to do so, she said.

The council used the card to spend $18,517.56 on accommodation and $12,157.78 on conferences.

It spent $5710.75 on flights on the card, including Mr Geddes' trip to an expo in Shanghai earlier this year.

Flights and accommodation were booked at the cheapest rate available often through budget websites, such as wotif.com, Ms Campbell said.

Preferred providers were Mercure, Ibis and Scenic Circle hotels, which are reviewed every two years.

The credit-card spending also included $4797.22 on subscriptions to the Associated Film Commission International and $3060 in subscription fees for four registered accountants to belong to the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants.

A total of $10,800.04 was spent via the card on uniforms, including $4736.09 for Icebreaker clothing for Queenstown Airport staff which was reimbursed.

Ms Campbell said the council had not reprimanded, warned, reminded or otherwise disciplined anyone in relation to the use of the card.


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