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Another Wong whitewash

Written By: - Date published: 9:36 am, September 6th, 2011 - 30 comments
Categories: corruption - Tags:

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.

30 comments on “Another Wong whitewash ”

  1. queenstfarmer 1

    I see this is filed under “corruption”. Just out of curiosity (based on your posts, nothing much would surprise me) who are you alleging has carried out the “whitewash”, Eddie?

    • Craig Glen Eden 1.1

      This Government is covered in the filth of self interest qf, deep down you know it but like the AG it dosn’t suit you to verbalize otherwise, but if this was a Labour minister you would have been all over it. Wong didnt resign her position for nothing.

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    Another whitewash by the government to ensure that the government appears as pure as snow.

    • queenstfarmer 2.1

      So you are accusing the Auditor General (as she wrote the report) of corruption. I would like to know (just out of curiosity) if the author also shares this view.

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1

        Well, when an investigator essentially takes the word of the investigated as gospel you really do have to question why. There’s only one answer.

        • queenstfarmer 2.1.1.1

          There’s only one answer when the report doesn’t say what you were hoping it would say (and of course, you are quite happy to casually throw any public servant under the bus to attempt to score political points).

          If you read the report (and if Eddie hadn’t deliberately omitted parts of it from his “summary” above), you would see, in relation to Trip E for example, the report says:

          Although one of the book-keeping errors discussed in paragraph 1.20 related to an expense on this trip, we found no other evidence to suggest that there was any business activity on this trip. Nor did we find any evidence of business revenue related to this trip

          So it was clearly not a case of “taking the word of the investigated as gospel”. The records examined were consistent with the interview evidence. But I guess that doesn’t square with the “one answer” – that the AG is corrupt – that you confess is the only outcome you can contemplate.

          • mik e 2.1.1.1.1

            Don’t forget Sammy Wongs Chinese partners in the hoovercraft company have defrauded the original New Zealander out of his company. The rail deal has been a disaster the engines can’t reach full speed because of inferior running gear the flat decks are having to be welded properly. And Jenny Shipley has her fingers in the pie.

  3. grey lynn girl 3

    And what about Sammy $75,000 for domestic air travel? This is about as independant as the Treasury forecasts for growth!

  4. Joe Bloggs 4

    An allegation of corruption against the Auditor-General is a very serious charge.

    I trust that you have equally serious proof to back up the implicit allegations in your post. If so then put up.

    Or is this just more smoke and mirrors, and comments framed as questions so there’s a whiff of plausible deniability if you’re challenged about your comments?

  5. Anne 5

    Who appointed this apology of an Auditor General?

    Didn’t she announce last year there would be no inquiry because she couldn’t find anything to inquire about? Words to that effect anyway. Well, it aint no surprise she came up with these findings. Anything else would have proven she had been wrong. Best hide the evidence under a bush and pretend it doesn’t exist.

  6. ianmac 6

    And the $1500.02 or so identified as “mis-spent” raises not a wisp of concern compared to Mr Carter’s roses or Jones erotic movies. Ya gotta be on the winning side!

    • Anne 6.1

      Ya gotta be on the winning side!

      Says it all!

      Parliament sits again today. Will Labour be asking urgent questions? Tbh, I don’t trust them to be on the ball. They, too, seem to want to bury their heads in the sand. Hope I’m wrong.

      • tc 6.1.1

        What’s the pojnt Anne ? The govt’s got it’s spin and story sorted and it’s trolls watching the blogs like the 2 regulars on this thread already. Worth set the benchmark for this type of issue.

        With less than 3 months for the GE I’d prefer they focused on the nat’s appalling economic record, youth unemployment, jobs, that head in the sand energy policy and that 10Bill hole in the budget which includes a firesale of power generators. Plenty to watch the gov’t BS about.

  7. Tom Gould 7

    Who investigates the Auditor-General? What is the mechanism to have her work independently reviewed?

    • ghostwhowalksnz 7.1

      Did the staff of the Auditor general even carry out the work ?

      or was it passed on to a commercial auditing firm .

  8. Richard 8

    Ltd be like someone asking the couple who got $10m OD by Westpac by mistake, did you intend to rip off Westpac? ‘Oh no, we didn’t, but they just gave us the money, it was so tempting so we took it and ran’, and that being the end of it after it was paid back

    PFT

  9. Daveski 9

    Pot kettle black. Don’t forget that in the past, National has had a Field day at Labour’s expense over perceived whitewashes.

    From my perspective ie the other side of the fence, Labour has put too much effort into beltway issues which simply aren’t going to get traction or simply expose the hypocrisy of politicians of all/most political persuasion.

    • queenstfarmer 9.1

      National has had a Field day at Labour’s expense over perceived whitewashes

      I don’t recall National or its supporters (or those of most other parties) implying the Auditor General is corrupt. Accusing a political party of a whitewash is one thing – and fair game too – but accusing an Auditor General (or the entire office) of corruption, with no evidence, is a very serious matter. Unfortunately Labour and its supporters seem to be making a knee-jerk habit of doing this.

      I suppose DTB & co will be writing to Transparency International demanding that NZ be demoted from its top ranking on the anti-corruption index because of this rampant corruption.

      • tc 9.1.1

        No point, once we elected a banker backed by the Hollowmen the index adjusted itself.

        • queenstfarmer 9.1.1.1

          That’s a strange way of saying that NZ has stayed at #1.

          Although I expect the actual measurement would have taken a hit (or may yet) after Phillip Field became New Zealand’s first MP to be jailed for bribery and corruption.

  10. Ianupnorth 10

    What I find bewildering is the whole ‘Shipley and Wong Ltd.’ – so they set up a company, but, by chance, fate or otherwise, it never trades – why? Because the opportunities never arose, because it was a convenient way of facilitating meetings and/or getting a foot in certain doors.
     
    Call me cynical but

    Dame Jenny Shipley confirmed to us that she attended and spoke at this ceremony as a representative of another company. Mr Wong’s presence there was not connected to hers. She also confirmed that she and Mr Wong have not carriedout any business projects together

    Luck, fate, convenience – or the business opportunity never arose? these caring bastions of NZ society more interested in their own bank balances or the people back at home?
     
    And

    We looked for any evidence that might suggest that there was business activity on this trip or that it resulted in business revenue. The financial information we were given showed that Mr Wong received three payments from Alpha Group in 2010. Mr Wong explained that he began acting as an agent for Alpha Group
    from November 2010 and the payments were commission. This explanation corroborates other sources. We are satisfied there is no connection between this trip and the payments received more than five years later, in 2010.

    So he got paid a commission, but the company never traded? remind me to set one of those up, where you get paid for visiting a country and doing nothing!
    Also,

    We specifically asked whether he 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 aconnection with any of these businesses.

    If it is questionable he is hardly likely to reveal his taxi receipt to the rail yard is he?
     
    Someone is good at hiding stuff!

    • tc 10.1

      As per the classic BBC show ‘Yes Minister’ only form an inquiry/committee if you know the outcome/answer you want them to come up with.

      Via terms of reference/participants/alignment of responses….too easy, next trough for my personal wealth opportunities please, thanks national….ka ching.

      • queenstfarmer 10.1.1

        You really don’t have a clue do you tc.

        The Auditor General is a statutorily independent Officer of Parliament. The Wong inquiry was not “formed” or “ordered” by the Government, it was initiated by the AG itself, following information received from the public and Hodgson, and requests from Phil that it do so. The Govt did not set “terms of reference” or “participants” (nor could it) for the AG’s inquiry.

    • higherstandard 10.2

      Do you lot actually do any work at Lakelands ?

  11. Treetop 11

    The legal term “intent” is what bothers me about the AG’s report into the Wongs. Talk about organising your business affairs to take advantage of free air travel.

    Ari Smith’s honesty is refreshing as he had no intent to mislead anyone.

  12. Rodel 12

    I read somewhere that over the past few years 12% of ACT parliamentarians have been indicted for fraud stuff. Is that right?
    What are the figures for National and Labour?? (Fraud or thereabouts would do).
    And My gawd ,Isn’t Rodney quiet!!?
    What are his plans?-I miss him already. Have to turn to Fux news for my amusement now.

  13. rosy 13

    “no pattern of wrong doing”
    What does this phrase actually mean?
    Did she find a scatter of wrongdoing? And that makes it all right then?

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