The Auditor-General seems certain to launch an investigation into the Wongs’ taxpayer-funded travel as even more evidence shows the Parliamentary report isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. A majority of Kiwis want her to resign. Why John Key hasn’t already called on the A-G to investigate, as he did with Phil Heatley, is beyond me.
The report that supposedly cleared the Wongs of systematic abuse of the travel perk has been exposed as having two fatal flaws:
1) it only looks at travel undertaken by the Wongs on Pansy’s MP’s travel perk. It ignores the four trips to China they took as ministerial travel. Considering it was a trip as minister that got her in trouble, that seems like a huge oversight. The Parliamentary Service report couldn’t look at spending under the Ministerial Services budget. And the Minister for Ministerial Services is Key, who doesn’t want to investigate.
2) it relies on the Wongs’ word. That word has been seriously thrown into doubt by the information that rortbuster Pete Hodgson is releasing.
The report, based on the Wongs’ word, says that Sammy made a visit to China in 2005 on the taxpayers’ dime to investigate his family history, which (remarkably) would have been within the rules. But Hodgson has shown that Sammy attended the opening of a business owned by his business partner, Jenny Shipley (it would be interesting to know how she paid for her travel, too).
In the very least, the Wongs should have given that information to the investigation so that it could assess whether or not it constituted travel for business, which is outside the rules. But the report makes no mention of this event, which suggests that the author wasn’t aware of it, since he does go to some lengths to explain his reasoning on whether other actions by the Wongs constitute business activities.
The Wongs’ word is further thrown into doubt by the information Hodgson released yesterday that shows, contrary to the claim made in the report, Sammy’s business interests in China were not limited to hovercraft. in 2009 he undertook business activities for Auckland school McLeans College on a trip in which he was part of Key’s trade delegation. Again, if Sammy had other business interests in China, why does the report state otherwise. Did the Wongs mis-inform the author?
A TV3 poll shows 55% of people think Pansy ought to resign from Parliament. I would have to agree. It has become evident that the Wongs withheld information from the inquiry, and that compounds the original offending.
Key now finds himself in a position he will recognise from when he was on the Opposition benches. He is a PM trying to defend the indefensible. He is still claiming that Wong made an innocent mistake (which, for some reason, forced her to resign) when the established facts of the issue have moved on. Not a sustainable position if he wants to maintain any credibility.
His holding pattern for now is to refuse to call for an Auditor-General’s inquiry, while Labour tries to force him into the embarrassing position of doing so. Ultimately, the A-G doesn’t have to wait for anyone to ask her to investigate, and she’s sure to start soon.