Treasury staff received small gifts of textbooks, macaroons and champagne, documents reveal
A list of gifts received by federal treasury personnel shows that you do not enter the civil service to be lavished with exciting gifts and riches.
- Buttons, books and bottles of wine were given to Treasury agents
- Free conference tickets are the most valuable items offered
- FOI documents reveal that even small gifts are examined
The most expensive item was $4,091, for two tickets to an Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) conference. Two textbooks from the Herbert Smith Freehills law firm – both valued at more than $300 each – were “unexpectedly delivered to the office”.
But most gifts were well under $100.
Two boxes of macaron cookies, worth $45 and $75, are noted in documents obtained through the Access to Information (FOI) process.
After a staff member received a $7.90 bottle of olive oil, a listing on the register read, “Have reached out to ask if he still has the gift to return.”
For integrity expert Serena Lillywhite, the meager detailed giveaways are a welcome development.
“It’s good to see that even the small gifts are registered,” she said. “We need it because petty corruption – gray issues, rorts – leads to grand corruption.
good and clear
But the Treasury’s gift register for the last two financial years, revealed in FOI documents from inside the government department, sounds a wake-up call to Ms Lillywhite, chief executive of anti-corruption body Transparency International Australia.
“I don’t think it’s acceptable for elected parliamentarians and the Treasury to accept free wine and tickets. Elected parliamentarians have a responsibility to the people who elected them. They shouldn’t accept gifts, like wine and olive oil – they should uphold integrity,” she said.
“The last election showed that the public values integrity, transparency and accountability.”
Small gifts taken seriously
In one instance, an agreement was made for a $71 bottle of champagne to be consumed by the Sydney office social club where it was received rather than being transported to Canberra and ‘returned’ there.
Australia’s global wine exports fell 17% to 619 million liters in the year to December 2021, according to industry body Wine Australia – but just nine bottles made it to the Treasury during of the past two years.
Another example is the media monitoring company Streem. He has a three-year contract with the Treasury, with the 2021-22 contract valued at $252,120 according to AusTender. The company spent the equivalent of 0.02% of that amount on a $60 “food box” including chocolate, Christmas cake and gingerbread at the Media and Speech Unit.
The boss receives the gifts
Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy is by far the biggest recipient of gifts. In the past two years, Dr. Kennedy said a box of 15 macaroons, two books, a Christmas decoration, six “Financial Review” branded placemats, five bottles of wine and a “grazing box” of food.
But he missed a $184 dinner with Macquarie Group chief executive Shemara Wikramanayake when acting secretary Meghan Quinn went to dinner at a restaurant called The Boathouse.
The Treasury declined to answer specific questions about the gifts, but released a brief statement. “The Treasury Department has a policy for officials receiving gifts or benefits, which is consistent with the Public Governance, Performance, and Accountability Act of 2013. Treasury officials must report any gifts or benefits that comply with this Politics “.
How do you know that
The Access to Information (FOI) process allows anyone to request records within government departments and agencies.
You can request documents – such as emails, reports or data – about yourself or about topics that interest you.
Requests are free, but fees may apply for processing the request. Search for “FOI” on the websites of the government department or agency you are interested in.