Major $290k spend revealed in five star restaurants in Canberra, Sydney

Federal Education Department officials have apologised to Australian taxpayers after spending thousands of dollars on work trips and meetings at five-star restaurants.

Department Secretary Tony Cook conceded his team “let taxpayers down” after it was revealed that education officials racked up a $290,000 hospitality and travel bill last year.

This included a $1,543 dinner at Mezzaluna Restaurant in Sydney, a $1,209 bill at Courgette Restaurant in Canberra and a $3,000 meeting at Mabu Mabu in Melbourne.

Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson said the department’s use of taxpayer funds was “appalling”.

“How could you run a department that allows this sort of a flagrant waste of taxpayers’ dollars?” Senator Henderson asked.

“Senator, again, I think we have let the taxpayers down and if you look at the range of those restaurants and the numbers I think some of those restaurants were under $40 a head,” Education Secretary Tim Cook explained.

In the first six months of last year, the Education Department spent a total of $172,691 on events and catering and another $118,404 on accommodation and travel costs, according to budget documents.

After media reports of the department’s lavish spending emerged in January, Mr Cook said that Education Minister Jason Clare “personally” pulled him in to raise the issue.

He said the department revised its hospitality policy a week later, setting a maximum limit of $77 per person for dinners.

“This is just a complete rort of taxpayers money,” Senator Henderson exclaimed.

“Holding a meeting should be in a meeting room with a cup of tea and a biscuit, do you agree?

Mr Cook repeated that his department had “let the taxpayer down” in what they would expect from public servants.

“It should not have happened, we should not have been utilising taxpayers’ money in those sorts of expenses,” he said.

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