Dodgy Timesheets Cost Taxpayers $1 Million

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3 entrepreneurial lessons from a political rorts-for-votes scheme

It was revealed, in a detailed report by the Victoria Ombudsman, how the Labor Party’s 2014 state election campaign was built by deliberately manufacturing dodgy timesheets for field organisers (FOs). Organisers were hired on the premise of working partly at the parliament’s electorate offices when they were actually campaigning full time.

At the heart of the scandal is how the timesheets were used in siphoning public funds to help with an election bid. But the final costs are far more than just monetary, though the figures should not be dismissed. The investigation took two years to conclude, where close to $400,000 was found to have been misused, with another $1 million of taxpayers’ money spent throughout the legal proceeding.

Never one to miss out on lessons learned, here are our three entrepreneurial takeaways from this dirty deed.


Lesson 1: No one is above the law

Never be penny wise and pound foolish in business. While you may benefit momentarily from pulling a quick one over your employees, the truth always and eventually comes out. As evidenced in this case and similar high-profile wage fraud lawsuits, the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) once again proves their conviction in upholding regulations, caring not for titles or designations. For a business, a lawsuit is not only costly and time-consuming, but one’s reputation also suffers greatly, and that’s a blow that many don’t recover from.


Lesson 2: Be meticulous about record-keeping

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The Fair Work Act requires employers to keep time and wage records for at least seven years. In the event of an investigation, Fair Work inspectors will be looking at your records very, very thoroughly.

If most of your business processes are still manually conducted and stored in physical forms, it may not be the best practice. On the contrary, having all this information in the cloud means anytime access and accuracy. What’s more, taking care of your paperwork feeds directly into your payroll needs and P&L reports, as well as making tax season that much easier.


Lesson 3: Have a watertight time tracking solution in place

Months before the 2014 election, sitting members were ordered to sign off on timesheets for casual electorate staff they had never met. No matter the size of your business, investing in a purpose-built timesheet solution is more than just logging hours, minutes and seconds.

It will help you to accurately calculate overtime and penalty or public holiday rates for awards, as well as provide detailed business insights on labour, expenses and productivity. More importantly, there will a clear and defined reporting line in place for who’s allowed to approve or edit timesheets, thus creating an accountable audit trail.


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