MP Pasin 'shocked' at excessive office cost

MEMBER for Barker Tony Pasin was "shocked" at the cost of establishing an electoral office in Mount Gambier and agrees the $500,000-plus pricetag was excessive.

Mr Pasin has been roundly criticised after topping a list of more than 100 MPs who had new offices fitted out or upgraded at exorbitant costs late last year.

But he has joined the chorus of comments from those MPs and other commentators that the Department of Finance was responsible for the excess, not the MPs themselves.

SA Senator Nick Xenophon was one who said parliamentarians currently had little to no say on the amount spent on their offices.

"This is out of the hands of the MPs," agreed Mr Pasin when asked by the Herald about the cost of setting up the office.

"I was shocked to learn of the costs involved in the Department of Finance-managed fit-out of the Barker electorate office in Mount Gambier, and I share the view that many other Members of Parliament have also publicly expressed, that these costs, over which parliamentarians have little control, appear to be excessive.

"(The office) is well-appointed," he conceded, "but much of the cost was on infrastructure that is necessary but unseen, such as special security measures.

"But it is effectively in line with the costs associated with establishing new offices in similar locations."

Mr Pasin clarified that the figures being reported as expended by MPs could be split into three categories - office establishment costs which in this case represented nearly two-thirds of the expended figure; office and staff expenses including cleaning, security and wages (nearly one-third of the total cost); and office administration and travel, over which the member has some control (about 10 per cent of the total cost).

Mr Pasin said he could understand taxpayers questioning why so much money was being spent on fitting out offices when there were other priorities, and he strongly agreed there could be improvements to the process.

"I think we should give MPs some input," he said. "I think if I was in charge of the process I would have achieved some savings."

In any case, Mr Pasin said he supported Prime Minister Tony Abbott's stance that a review of the situation was needed.

"I believe we should undertake a full and thorough review of the finance department and the process it follows."

Mr Pasin also felt that there should be more transparency in politicians' spending in general, particularly in light of the Bronwyn Bishop "Choppergate" saga relating to expensive travel claims.

"I don't want there to be any grey area, let's make the rules clear and concise and punish people who are doing the wrong thing," he said.

On his own travel allowances, Mr Pasin said he had a very large electorate which required him to drive upwards of 100,000km a year, but he always stayed within his travel budget.

He has been asked to travel overseas four times since being elected in 2013, but has always declined, choosing instead to "remain in my electorate and focus on issues of concern to constituents".

And on travel expenses being spent on family members, Mr Pasin said: "My family almost exclusively never travels (with me)."

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