The Country Fire Authority of Australia landed in hot water earlier this year when Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett put an end to corporate card use following revelations of misspending. But last week, Garrett reportedly relaxed the ban on commercial cards after an inquiry found them to be necessary for emergency spending.
Last February, Garrett cut the 800 corporate cards in use by the CFA after an investigation found more than A$230,000 worth of unjustified spending at restaurants and parties. But last week, reports said 143 of those cards will be put to use again to appease the CFA’s claims that some of these cards are necessary in case of emergencies.
According to reports, the cards will only be able to be used for food, water and accommodation during fire events, and Garrett said that only duty officers on the current CFA roster will have access to those cards. CFA executives, meanwhile, are still prohibited from using the company cards.
The saga has highlighted the threat of corporate card misuse if no monitoring mechanism is in place. An investigation by the Herald Sun originally uncovered the misspending, also revealing hundreds of transactions and thousands of dollars worth of purchases made with the cards without a receipt.
The spending ranged from purchases on conferences, meals and travel to tailoring and even a hairdresser, the publication found.
“This is about cleaning up an out-of-control credit card system, which allowed for excessive spending at the expense of taxpayers,” Garrett said. “We will be closely reviewing the spending in 12 months’ time to ensure accountability of public money.”
Maverick spending by employees with access to commercial cards and accounts is a widespread issue across the globe, from misuse of corporate fuel cards to unregulated procurement. Innovators of the payment products used by businesses argue that more advanced services, which include data aggregation and digital platforms that allow corporate managers to oversee employee spending, help to crackdown on improper use.