Secret light rail board paid $710K of taxpayer cash
Members of a secretive advisory board for the under fire light rail are being paid up to $7000 per meeting by the NSW government - but refuse to tell anyone what they're talking about.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal that since 2014 Transport for NSW has splashed out at least $710,000 of taxpayers' money paying the three independent members of the Sydney Light Rail Advisory Board.
Despite the big bucks being shelled out, the board's minutes and agendas are not publicly available because of "commercial sensitivities", according to a spokesman for Transport Minister Andrew Constance. And it does not publish an annual report.
Chair Ron Finlay, an infrastructure lawyer, receives $70,000 per year to sit on the board. Independent members Dr Kerry Schott and Penny Graham pocket $40,000 a year.
Last year the board had just 10 meetings, some of which members attended via phone.
It comes as CBD businesses brace for another disrupted Christmas period caused by the bumbling light rail project, which is running more than a year late and $500 million over budget.
Established in 2014, according to Transport for NSW the advisory board is meant to provide "independent expert advice to government" on the project.
In October, Ms Graham left the board which has since had its role downgraded.
"The Sydney Light Rail Advisory Board, which comprises two independent members, will continue to provide advice to the Secretary of TfNSW as needed on critical project decisions," a Transport for NSW spokesman said.
He did not answer whether the remaining members had their pay reduced as a result of the board's reduced role.
Opposition transport spokeswoman Jodi McKay said the amount the board was paid was exorbitant: "We have no idea what this organisation has done … you would think … they would be responsible for transparency on the project."