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Board Directors under fire for abusing Cabcharge privileges

This week in GronkWatch, Alex Downie and Dom Ellis uncover the University of Sydney Union’s very own expenses scandal.

A Casio watch with the word GRONKWATCH on it.

University of Sydney Union Board Directors were last week asked to return their Cabcharge cards, after it was revealed that several directors had allegedly abused their Cabcharge privileges.

While the total number of Directors involved is unclear, Honi understands that Director Liam Carrigan is the worst offender. It is alleged that he took 27 cabs and cost the USU over $500 in January alone. In context, that’s the equivalent cost of about seven one-year ACCESS cards in less than a month.

The feat is particularly impressive given that the USU was on holiday until January 5th and that, as a former Board Director tells Honi, January is the period with the fewest Union events.

Under current regulations, Board Directors are only entitled to ‘free’ cabs—subsidised by student money—for travel to or from Union duties outside of business hours; when pre-existing commitments will make directors late for union duties (or vice-versa); or in otherwise urgent situations approved by the President or Honorary Treasurer. Directors sign an agreement to abide by those conditions before they receive their Cabcharge credit cards.

Twitter Carrigan_1 (4)

A screenshot from Carrigan’s Twitter account

Honi understands that the Board has not yet formally discussed Carrigan’s charges, but can confirm that the Directors were all asked to hand over their Cabcharge cards on February 17th. USU President Tara Waniganayaka was unable to confirm whether Liam will be forced to reimburse the Union. It is possible that Carrigan will also be subject to a censure motion from other Board Directors.

Speaking to Honi, Carrigan claimed that the charges were necessary because he lives in the Northern Beaches, saying that it costs him up to $70 to get home from the University by cab in peak hour. He also said that he had already talked to Human Resources about the matter and intended to pay back any charges that fell outside the rules. Carrigan has also provided a full statement, available here.

As Honi understands it, the Board will now revert to the previous ‘paper card’ system, where Directors have to ask Human Resources for individual trip cards, meaning they effectively have to ask the permission of their own staff to get home.

The controversy comes as Carrigan’s fellow Grassroots member and board director Ed McMahon spearheads a campaign to subsidise ACCESS cards for disadvantaged students. Despite McMahon and others wanting to implement universal free access, they were only able to implement a limited subsidy scheme because of the Union’s strapped finances.

Carrigan recently co-authored the Union’s new transparency policy. Speaking in favour of the policy, he told Honi: ‘the board shouldn’t live in an ivory tower’.

Update 17-11-15: Honi can confirm that both directors have since repaid their debt in full.