The Sunday Mail (Queensland)
‘Partying like it’s 1999’
$655k for Christmas bashes among NBN staffers’ $47m expenses
THE government-owned company in charge of the National Broadband Network has racked up an employee expenses bill of an extraordinary $47m over three years.
This includes Christmas parties that cost $655,000 and meals eaten during overtime worth $616,000.
The Sunday Mail can reveal NBN Co also racked up $923,000 on “staff entertainment” including off-site team meetings and conferences.
NBN Co has already been at the centre of a political storm after staff received $77m in bonuses in a five-month period during the COVID-19 recession when millions lost their jobs.
Opposition government services spokeswoman Kimberley Kitching accused Communications Minister Paul Fletcher (right) and “his cosy club of NBN bosses” of “partying like it’s 1999 and delivering slow broadband speeds like it’s 1999”.
“His ‘ see no evil, hear no evil’ approach to management is causing tens of millions of dollars of high-on-the-hog spending,” Ms Kitching said.
A full breakdown of NBN Co employee expenses across the 2018, 2019 and 2020 financial years also revealed almost $800,000 was spent on overseas trips including meetings and trade events.
The company’s bill for entertaining clients was $187,000, while a staff awards program added another $226,000 to the tab.
But it could have been even more painful for taxpayers.
Between July 1 last year and February 28 this year, the total cost of employee expenses plummeted to just $1.4m.
An NBN Co spokesman said the organisation cancelled all non-essential travel in 2020 and most employees who could work from home were encouraged to do so.
He added that all Christmas parties and end-of-year functions were also cancelled last year.
“In prior years, the company set a modest budget for departmental end-of-year gatherings, and for the past three fiscal years, spent approximately $28-$36 per employee, on average, on these events,” the spokesman said.
“It makes sense to bring teams together at certain times t hroughout the year to collaborate and engage on particular programs of work. “Across a workforce of around 6000 employees, the FY20 ‘staff entertainment’ spend was less than $5 per month per employee.
“Our employees are aware of our corporate expense policies and adhere to them.”
But Ms Kitching said that with Australia facing a massive almost $1 trillion in debt, the federal government needed to “rein in the extravagant spending”.
NBN Co has 13 executives earning above $500,000 and 733 staff on at least $200,000 a year.