The Auditor-General has released her investigation into Pansy and Sammy Wong’s use of the publicly funded parliamentary travel budget. She finds there was “no pattern of wrong doing”. Looking at the report you’ll see why – and you’ll be left with more questions than answers…
Recap: The Auditor-General was asked by rortbusting Labour MP Pete Hodgson to investigate Pansy Wong’s use of the Parliamentary travel perk for business purposes. Strictly against Parliament and Cabinet’s rules. This was after a previous report (the McPhail report) failed to look at any more evidence besides interviewing the Wongs.
So what did the Auditor-General look at?
“The financial information we reviewed
1.20 Our request for detailed information about Mr and Mrs Wong’s travel and for comprehensive ﬁnancial records led Mr and Mrs Wong to carefully review their ﬁnancial information for this whole period. Mr Wong told us that he had identiﬁed a small number of instances where he had incorrectly recorded some private expenses as business expenses. He has taken steps to reverse these errors”
Right. So she had everything. All the financial details. Everything Mr and Mrs Wong wanted her to have… uhhh….
OK. Aside from the financials she obviously would’ve done some hard research on the core of the problem: Figuring out whether the Wongs trips funded for by the taxpayer were bona fide and absolutely not for private business gain. Let’s see what she looked into:
There were nine of these trips where the conclusions in the Parliamentary Service report had been called into question as a result of the later information we had received. We asked Mr and Mrs Wong for detailed explanations of these trips, and analysed their ﬁnancial records to test those explanations.
Again, it appears the AG has simply gone to the Wongs and asked them what they think. I thought that was the exact problem with the previous McPhail report… Indeed wasn’t that supposedly the whole purpose behind the new report!? The AG looked into nine of the Wongs trips and you’ve got to wonder how much time and effort was put into this research. As an example look at the research behind ‘trip e’.
We specifically asked whether he [Sammy Wong] had any connection with Dalian Locomotives, or the company China North Rail (CNR), or had visited either while in Dalian. We did so because of the speculation that Mr Wong had a connection with the rail industry and because CNR has done some business in New Zealand. Mr Wong told us that he had no connection with the companies and had not visited them while in Dalian. We note that nothing in his ﬁnancial information suggested a connection with any of these businesses
So the Auditor-General verified Sammy Wong’s statement by checking the financial information provided by… Sammy Wong. Makes sense, doesn’t it? It goes on… read what the AG said about ‘trip h’.
We also asked about a signing ceremony for a Memorandum of Understanding that Mr and Mrs Wong attended in Lianyungang, for the company New Zealand Pure & Natural Limited. Given that Mr Wong is a shareholder in this company (as is Mr Yang), we asked whether he regarded it as a business activity, and why they had not mentioned it in the Parliamentary Service investigation.
Mr Wong told us that the company is a shell company only. It does not trade and has no physical oﬃce. He explained that a ceremony of the kind they attended, where a Memorandum of Understanding is signed, is a common occurrence in China and is largely a public relations exercise or courtesy. It is in eﬀect a declaration of friendship, and does not create any binding agreement, or indicate any intention to do business together or follow up the relationship. He had not recalled the ceremony or given it any significance until it was raised in this process.
Other than the matters already discussed in the Parliamentary Service report, we found no evidence of business revenue, expenses, or activity relating to this trip.
Now I feel like Jon Stewart having just watched yet another absurd Fox New clip.
Seriously?! A shell company? Is she serious? “It does not trade, it has no office?” OF COURSE IT’S ABOVE BOARD. It all makes sense… Everything must be perfectly swell then. I mean, it’s a cultural thing right… Right…? No need to look further into this folks. Nothing to see here.
In fact, the only trip where the AG says Sammy Wong was in the wrong was on his visit to the hovercraft factory (trip g), which was very clearly for business purposes. That incident was of course the one we all know about already.
And the AG’s report, like the McPhail report doesn’t cover most of the suspect flights. The Wongs took an incredible five trips to China during Pansy’s time as minister. Only one of them is covered in this report (trip g). What about all the subsequent ones? Why hasn’t the AG investigated?
So what new things exactly has the Auditor-General told us with her latest report? It raises a heck of a lot more questions than answers that’s for sure.