Luxury watch probe to investigate expenses ‘culture’ at Australia Post

Luxury watch probe to investigate expenses ‘culture’ at Australia Post

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A snap inquiry into Australia Post's decision to splash $19,950 on luxury watches for senior management will investigate whether it was an isolated incident or symptomatic of a broader culture of gift-giving within the organisation.

Sidelined chief executive Christine Holgate's personal expenses may also come under scrutiny, with the federal government confirming its month-long inquiry will consider whether any "other instances" require investigation.

Christine Holgate gave evidence about the purchase of four Cartier watches, worth $19,950 in total, on Thursday.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The investigation's terms of reference, released on Monday, show it will probe the roles of Ms Holgate, then-chairman John Stanhope and the board in the purchase of the Cartier watches for four senior employees in 2018.

As part of this, it will examine whether Ms Holgate and the board acted within their obligations as chief executive and directors, and whether this was consistent with the "efficient, effective, economical and ethical expenditure of money and use of public resources".

The inquiry will also delve into Australia Post's "governance arrangements and management culture", and whether the giving of "gifts, rewards and expenses, including personal expenses of executives" meets public expectations and requires further review.

The four-week investigation will be jointly led by the Communications and Finance departments, in conjunction with a law firm, which has not yet been announced.

Ms Holgate was forced to stand aside from her position on Thursday, after she told a Senate estimates hearing her office had spent $3000 each on Cartier watches for four senior employees in October 2018 as a reward for landing the Bank@Post deal with three of the big four banks. Australia Post chairman Lucio Di Bartolomeo was forced to correct this evidence in a statement on Friday, in which he said the watches cost $7000, $4750, $4400 and $3800, totalling $19,950.

Ms Holgate told the Senate the gifts were organised through her office on the recommendation of Mr Stanhope.

The luxury watches are the latest expenses scandal to plague her three-year tenure, following revelations she spent about $300,000 on corporate credit cards and chauffeur-driven cars in 2019-20. She also paid a reputation management firm $119,000 for just 38 days’ work for the organisation between June and July.

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