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TAXPAYERS are forking out thousands for two NSW bureaucrats to enjoy bimonthly European jaunts to meet contractors constructing the light rail system.
The trips come at a cost of $200,000 and include business class flights, first-class train tickets and even luxury Paris sojourns.
At least one of the week-long trips has included a stay in the plush Hotel La Monnaie Art and Spa in La Rochelle, France where guests are treated to a “hydraulic massage” facility. And the pair is also allowed $200 per day of the trip for food and transport.
The plush Hotel La Monnaie Art and Spa in La Rochelle, France where the two bureaucrats stayed. Picture: Supplied
There was also a stopover in Madrid, Spain. Picture: SuppliedDocuments obtained by The Daily Telegraph reveal that state Transport Minister Andrew Constance signed off on funding for 10 trips for Sydney Light Rail staff to occur between May 2017 and October 2018 — with an anticipated cost of $19,200 for each seven-day trip.
They are being divided between Light Rail project director Andrew Summers and operations director Simon Hussey who are meeting with representatives from Alstom, the French company building the trams, and Acciona — the Spanish contractor with the $2.1 billion contract to build the light rail itself.
Documents obtained by The Daily Telegraph reveal NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance signed off on funding for 10 trips, totalling to $192,000.Other accommodation includes stays at the Hotel Thérèse in the heart of Paris. And there have also been stopovers in Madrid and Barcelona.
However, a Transport for NSW spokesman defended the visits, saying taxpayers expected “face-to-face meetings and inspections” for major infrastructure projects.
“It is important and appropriate that we inspect major projects, including overseas components, to ensure value for NSW taxpayers’ money,” he said. “Transport for NSW staff followed NSW Government policy regarding flights and accommodation for official travel associated with Sydney Light Rail.”
Opposition Transport spokeswoman Jodi Mckay was scathing.
Opposition Transport spokesman Jodi McKay has slammed the ridiculous amount spent. Picture: Adam Yip“The cost of offshoring those vital manufacturing jobs is bad enough for the NSW economy but to add insult to injury the taxpayer has to foot the bill for expensive travel,” Ms Mckay said.
Responding to Daily Telegraph questions Mr Constance said: “As with any state significant infrastructure project I expect the experts in the department to keep a close eye over all aspects of the project”.
The light rail is one of the state’s most ambitious infrastructure projects.
It comes as city business owners say delays are pushing them to near-bankruptcy. City of Sydney councillor Angela Vithoulkas, who owns George St’s Vivo Cafe, said she was disgusted.
“When there are so many businesses who are being denied financial assistance, I’m frankly horrified,” she said. “You’d think given the amount of money the contractors are being paid they would come to meet us.”
This article first appeared on www.dailytelegraph.com.au
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