Australian senator Lucy Gichuhi, with roots from Kenya will pay back hundreds of thousands of Kenyan shillings after she billed taxpayers to fly two family members to Adelaide for her 50th birthday party.
The South Australian senator, who is actually 55 years old, held the belated birthday bash at Rydges Hotel in Adelaide on October 27 last year, which she called “50th birthday plus GST”. A photo album, added to the senator’s Facebook page, described the event as a “wonderful night of celebration with family and close friends”.
Ms Gichuhi’s travel records show she billed taxpayers $2139 for two return airfares from Darwin to Adelaide arriving on Thursday, October 26, and departing on Tuesday, October 31.
The claim was made as part of the senator’s “family traveler” allowance, which is a fund MPs can use to pay for family members to join them “on parliamentary, electorate or official business” at Commonwealth expense.
On Sunday, Senator Gichuhi said it was an adminstrative error.
Regarding the media reports about my travel expenses, this was an administrative error involving misunderstanding of travel rules.
I’ve raised an invoice from the department to pay the costs of $2139 in full.
— Lucy Gichuhi (@senatorlucy) June 17, 2018
An independent review of the parliamentary expenses system, triggered by the Choppergate scandal in which former speaker Bronwyn Bishop billed taxpayers for a helicopter journey between Melbourne and Geelong, recommended that family travel be maintained “so as to facilitate family life but not constitute an indulgence”.
“The family reunion travel entitlement is provided to allow senators and members to balance their work and family responsibilities, and to reconcile the need for them to be away from home for long periods with their family obligations,” the rules say.
“The entitlement is not intended to provide a general travel entitlement for a senator or member’s spouse or nominee, dependent children or designated persons.”
Ms Gichuhi said she would investigate the matter shortly after The Sunday Telegraph submitted questions to her office on Friday.
She has since agreed to repay the full amount and will also be required to pay an additional 25 per cent penalty.
Photographs show Ms Gichuhi celebrating in Adelaide’s Skyline Restaurant and Lounge with a large group of family and friends, including former Family First senator Bob Day, who gave a speech.
Senator Gichuhi addressed her guests, telling them “50 plus GST is a very important birthday”.
She also uploaded a copy of her birthday speech to her parliamentary website saying she had a “wonderful time celebrating my birthday with my closest friends”.