Credit card scandals & false economies

Written By: - Date published: 11:02 am, June 23rd, 2010 - 90 comments
Categories: accountability, parliamentary spending - Tags:

This weekend I heard an MP confide that they had missed a Tuesday of Parliament because they had an important public meeting in their constituency to attend that evening. They could easily have flown to parliament for the day, but did not want to be portrayed by the media as profligate, “wasting the taxpayers’ money”, by using too much air-travel. They spent the day working from home on constituency and office work, but missed the core activity of MPs – debating bills in the House.

There are stories too that MPs are requiring their EAs to spend large amounts of time finding cheaper flights and accommodation too. There’s a false economy, the MPs’ reported expenses are lower, but actually a whole lot of more valuable work can’t be done by the EAs.

Is this the desired effect of the chill wind blowing from the media on our representatives’ expenses, that even John Key warned about?

I’d rather our MPs could do their jobs – parliament holding the government to account, and ministers able to focus on the important parts of their portfolio – rather than carefully going through their hotel bills, making sure that each and every item was put on the right card. I don’t want them to waste our money and their personal spending should be at their own expense; but if they put it on the government credit card and sort out the bill when it comes through, I don’t see how that affects me.

The true story of this expenses “scandal” is that there is no story, other than a bit of titillation over one member’s porn fetish. Ministers do not even hold their credit cards, their chiefs of staff do – so there never was going to be a chance for them to run their household on it.

Ministerial Services were quite happy for ministers to set their expenses square when bills came in; like many laws and company regulations the letter of the law is ignored for sensible ease of use. The alternative is either that a large amount of waste of time and money is incurred by the minister and their staff as they carefully split bills between many cards at the time; or that the minister uses their personal card all the time. As a 4 week trip overseas can stretch to $50,000 for a minister and their party, that is probably beyond even most minister’s credit card limits, and even then they’d still have to go through a credit card bill line-by-line with Ministerial Services, showing what needed refunding. And how would a $50,000 cheque from the government to a minister look to the press?

As long as they pay the money back, no worries.

So why did the Minister for Ministerial Services, John Key, decide to agree to spend over $50,000 on a OIA request showing that Labour ministers conformed to the rules as administered by Ministerial Services over their tenure? And why did he have the receipts all released while Phil Goff was in China? One can but speculate.

In the meantime John Key follows in good National tradition of waste by penny-pinching. I’ve heard an ex-Minister say how much more effective they were on their travels for having the support of their spouse with them: is John Key’s media-friendly stance of “no partners on trips” reducing how well we are represented overseas? But this is just in keeping with a government that stops home-help for the elderly so they end up in hospital costing us a lot more to keep people in a much sadder state; or stopping ACC funding certain immediate treatments that mean the health system will have to spend much more in the long term on chronic conditions.

Sometimes, it just makes sense to spend the money.

Bunji

90 comments on “Credit card scandals & false economies”

  1. ianmac 1

    I always thought that the MPs should get a generous pay and expenses. They are a pretty elite group of about 120 so their expenses are micro against the total cost of Government. The better pay means less likely to be bribed.
    But since there is still secrecy about who donates what to Parties, the Party becomes vunerable to being persuaded by donar lobby groups, rather than the individual MP. Dodgy like Trusts?

    By the way did anyone ferret though Mr Worth’s box of receipts?

    • Lanthanide 1.1

      Yeah, this is the main reason that the expenses in the UK were so outragoues – I believe common MPs only get a salary of £60k, which is a pittence if you need to live in London and/or perform many public duties that require appropriate attire etc.

  2. Croc 2

    There are stories too that MPs are requiring their EAs to spend large amounts of time finding cheaper flights and accommodation too. There’s a false economy, the MPs’ reported expenses are lower, but actually a whole lot of more valuable work can’t be done by the EAs.

    Six minutes as opposed to five minutes? I find this point to be frivolous. Very unlikely that EAs are spending large amounts of time to find the cheapest options available. I mean those options are incredibly easy to find in the first place.

    At least one gov department uses this company and has done for at least two years: https://www.orbit.co.nz/home

    It’s their job to find the cheapest options available so EAs don’t waste time doing tasks like this.

    • ianmac 2.1

      When my wife was working for a University they were required to have all flights booked through an agency. My wife being an expert booker would check the agency cost against her finds. The Agency charge was between $50 and $90 more per flight than her find. But that was the system.
      I think that Guest Post’s point was that MP’s are now too cautious against what they should be free to get the job done, and not 2-3 minutes wasted.

  3. Emp 3

    Ministerial Services were quite happy for ministers to set their expenses square when bills came in; like many laws and company regulations the letter of the law is ignored for sensible ease of use.

    Ummm no they weren’t. There were hundreds of reminders to ministers that they could not use their ministerial credit cards for personal expenses. The ministers repeatedly ignored the reminders.

    The alternative is either that a large amount of waste of time and money is incurred by the minister and their staff as they carefully split bills between many cards at the time; or that the minister uses their personal card all the time.

    Bullshit. It doesn’t take a large amount of wasted time when you’re paying a bill to note that the porn movies and flowers you’ve sent to your husband and spa treatments are personal expenses and pay them with your personal card rather than whipping out the ministerial one. It’s an instant decision of judgement. “Is this personal or ministerial.” “Can I justify this.”

    In the real world we make these decisions all the time. Must suck to be a labour party member knowing your hoity toity was so extravagant with taxpayer money.

    • Lanthanide 3.1

      “The ministers repeatedly ignored the reminders.”

      They were requests for bills to be reconciled promptly, coupled with reminders that credit cards should not be used for personal expenses.

      If ministerial services *truly* had a problem with credit cards being used for personal expenses and later reconciled, they would have cut the ministers off the very first time it happened, and wouldn’t have needed to send “hundreds of reminders”.

      This is a case of the written rules being unrealistic in the real world. The rules need to be changed to clarify exactly what is permissible, and what not, and what processes and procedures are valid and what not.

      “It doesn’t take a large amount of wasted time when you’re paying a bill to note that ”
      If it means you miss your flight, or are late for an important meeting, then yes, it is a big deal.

    • American Gardener 3.2

      Yes it does seem rather straight forward for a minister to split the expenses at the time of purchase.

      Having said that I can see how Shane Jones would have been caught out : hotel room booked on the ministerial credit card, movies charged automatically to the room and the card.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.3

      It doesn’t take a large amount of wasted time when you’re paying a bill to note…

      Yes, actually it does as the services are automatically booked to the same CC at the time. To split it would probably take half an hour or more.

      Must suck to be a labour party member knowing your hoity toity was so extravagant with taxpayer money.

      They weren’t though, they paid it back. What pisses me off is the delusion thrown out by the RWNJs that they’ve actually done something wrong and the NACT spinsters in the MSM have slavishly echoed that delusion.

      • Martin English 3.3.1

        Maybe you don’t travel for work. Maybe you do, and you’re just inefficient. I tell reception, when I book in, that the room is to be on THIS card, and either
        a) give them my personal card for other expenses, or
        b) pay these other expenses as I go.

        Of course, some stuff I can justify charging back to the company, But I’m expected to do it correctly. It costs me a hell of a lot of money if I don’t do it correctly, and I get caught. I’m a bit disappointed that a party that claims to be for the working man (and yes I work my arse off) are willing to have one rule for themselves and another for them.

        • RedLogix 3.3.1.1

          So you have an employer who rigorously inisists that there should be no private expenses ever appearing on the cc, and come over all punitive if you get it wrong. Feel sorry for you having to work for arseholes like that.

          Seriously…life’s too short for that kind of shit. If you really are working your arse off for them I’d be thinking long and hard about exactly what kind of value they are putting on your time and energy.

          Ever expected to do any business travel outside of business hours? You know, the trip to the airport at 6am, or the Sunday evening flight to make an early morning meeting. Ever get reimbursed for that?

          What about all those evenings away from your family or friends? It’s coming out of your life, but the people profitting from your endeavours don’t even trust you to reimburse a few petty dollars of personal expense within a few weeks. Pathetic really.

          • Martin English 3.3.1.1.1

            Its my own company, and the people I need to keep satisfied are from the tax department !!

            BTW the anti-spam word is OWED

        • felix 3.3.1.2

          Agreed RL.

          Martin, they don’t trust you. They likely want to get rid of you. Start looking for another job before they find a reason to.

  4. Blue 4

    James Griffin wrote a great satire piece in Canvas about this issue. It’s not online, unfortunately.

    It was a fictional dinner with John Key, Barack Obama and Silvio Berlusconi and all through dinner poor John had to worry about how much everything cost and explain that if he didn’t choose the cheapest option on the menu he would be interrogated for weeks on Close Up and Campbell Live.

  5. [1.]why did the Minister for Ministerial Services, John Key, decide to agree to spend over $50,000 on a OIA request [2.]showing that Labour ministers conformed to the rules as administered by Ministerial Services over their tenure? And [3.]why did he have the receipts all released while Phil Goff was in China? One can but speculate.

    Indeed one can:

    1. because the Official Information Act and the assessment of the public interest required it.
    2. because it didn’t, as the reference above to the repeated reminders and follow-ups shows.
    3. because the Official Information Act requires the information to be released in response to a request as soon as reasonably practicable – waiting until Goff returned would have been illegal.

    • Lanthanide 5.1

      “2. because it didn’t, as the reference above to the repeated reminders and follow-ups shows.”

      If ministerial services had a problem with putting personal hotel expenses on bills and reconciling them later, then they could have EASILY done a lot more than just send reminders. The fact that they didn’t, shows they condoned the practice.

      “3. because the Official Information Act requires the information to be released in response to a request as soon as reasonably practicable waiting until Goff returned would have been illegal.”

      The OIA also says that requests can be turned down on the basis of cost, or time. Considering this cost $50k and many months to procure while many other OIA requests are denied on these basis, a few more days actually isn’t a big deal, and I highly doubt would count as “illegal”.

      • As I implied in my first comment, cost and time must be weighed against the public interest. I submit that the public interest was properly considered to be high.

        • snoozer 5.1.1.1

          by whom was it considered high enough to justify $50K? Oh yeah, Key. So your point is the poster’s point.

          • really 5.1.1.1.1

            Clean the shit out of the corners of the Labour party then come back and debate the moral issue of spending money on accountability and auditing functions.

            • lprent 5.1.1.1.1.1

              Huh? Aren’t members of the public (which is how I see myself primarily) allowed to comment on public affairs. What are you? A member of some conformist faith like catholicism, moonism, or wingnutism (to name a few)?

              I criticize the NZLP, the party to which I am a member, pretty damn regularly. The only real difference with me criticizing the Nats etc is that I tend to do it inside the party because it is more effective there. That is why you find our green and union leaning authors doing most of the public criticism.

              You really do look like a total wanker from some of your really stupid comments..

              • really

                Lynn, I’m replying in kind to the majority of the comments on this thread which are REALLY REALLY stupid. So I’m not REALLY lowering the tone rather raising it somewhat, which is REALLY worrying.

  6. burt 6

    Yes I find it pretty hard to work out if a half hour massage is ok to claim in my tax returns….

    FFS – If I claim shit against my taxes (public money) that are not legally claimable and I get caught I get punished. Penalties and interest…. These plonkers, some of them warned 94 times, just get warned again. My heart bleeds for them struggling to work out if private dinners, golf clubs, knock-shop visits etc should be paid for by the tax payer or themselves….

  7. ianmac 7

    ” because the Official Information Act requires the information to be released in response to a request as soon as reasonably practicable waiting until Goff returned would have been illegal.”

    There have been numerous examples, so say Opposition MPs, where the OIA has been ignored and important information has not been forthcoming.

  8. Possibly the definitive Standard post – well done guys, it’ll be hard to top this.

  9. RedLogix 9

    This post adds weight to why I believe Labour has made a dreadful mistake in rolling over to the witch-hunt. All Goff has achieved is to set himself up for the same treatment, next time the right wing spin machine can concoct up another load of bs to fling at him.

    Despite the bleatings of the anal-retentive hide-bound nit pickers here; there is plenty of evidence to show that getting a few personal expenses aggregated into a corporate card (when incurred in the course of business travel), and then later reconciling and reimbursing is a perfectly common and acceptable practise. Written policy to the contrary is usually enforced to prevent obvious and flagrant abuse; like many such rules, enforcing them literally to the last jot and title is pointless and unnecessary. A degree of judgement and discretion is always applied around trivial and trifling matters that are not in the public interest to waste time pursuing.

    Moreover once the expense had been reconciled and reimbursed, it was no longer a public expense….therefore the public had no right to know anything about it. Again the Key govt has released information that should have remained private to bully and humiliate. The only way to deal to this is to take the fight back to them. Labour had a perfectly good story to tell and a defense many people understand, but this rolling over, sucking it up and hoping that it will all go away quickly will not work.

    All that has been achieved is that Labour has pleaded irreversibly guilty to something they were not guilty of, and as a result will have it hung around their necks for years to come. And it will be perceived by many as weak. For sure taking the fight back to the media would have been bloody, and costly….but it’s a battle that has to be won eventually. Putting it off will not hasten the left’s return to power.

    • burt 9.1

      Despite the bleatings of the anal-retentive hide-bound nit pickers here; there is plenty of evidence to show that getting a few personal expenses aggregated into a corporate card (when incurred in the course of business travel), and then later reconciling and reimbursing is a perfectly common and acceptable practise.

      And when the rules expressly forbid such practice then just ignore the rules, they are for other less entitled people.

      Written policy to the contrary is usually enforced to prevent obvious and flagrant abuse; like many such rules, enforcing them literally to the last jot and title is pointless and unnecessary. A degree of judgement and discretion is always applied around trivial and trifling matters that are not in the public interest to waste time pursuing.

      The best thing about this approach is that it is subjective and therefore open to interpretation depending on which party is abusing the rules. When it’s your team say it’s trivial and inconsequential, when it’s the other team call out that the sky is falling.

      Hide charging up bills for his partner going to Disneyland is unacceptable and he should be sacked but Jones racking up porn bills is OK and should never have been released because it reflects badly on the guy. Lets be honest, he’s in the red team and therefore the rules need to be enforced in a pragmatic way that avoids his embarrassment. Hide deserved all he got!

      Moreover once the expense had been reconciled and reimbursed, it was no longer a public expense .therefore the public had no right to know anything about it.

      We were all very quick to forgive Hide’s troughing once he paid it back. Paying it back when caught shows you have integrity and principles. There were no calls for Hide’s resignation because he did nothing wrong. Likewise Jones is being unfairly targeted.

      The role of parliamentary services is to check these things and the number of times some people have been pulled up trying to claim unreasonable personal expenses just shows how effective parliamentary services are. Lets face it, if you have had 70 warnings about personal expenses on the tax payers dime you are going to think pretty carefully to avoid the 71st warning. Imagine if you had to suffer the indignation of a 72nd and a 73rd warning as well, MPs just wouldn’t risk that.

      Again the Key govt has released information that should have remained private to bully and humiliate. The only way to deal to this is to take the fight back to them. Labour had a perfectly good story to tell and a defense many people understand, but this rolling over, sucking it up and hoping that it will all go away quickly will not work.

      Labour need to spend more tax payers money on a marketing campaign convincing tax payers that Labour have a right to help themselves to the services of prostitutes and consume fine wine at the tax payers expense when they feel like doing so. In the grand scheme 120 people spending few thousand dollars a month entertaining themselves is not going to make much difference to NZ.

      All that has been achieved is that Labour has pleaded irreversibly guilty to something they were not guilty of, and as a result will have it hung around their necks for years to come. And it will be perceived by many as weak. For sure taking the fight back to the media would have been bloody, and costly .but it’s a battle that has to be won eventually. Putting it off will not hasten the left’s return to power.

      We need money from tax payers to fight the accountability nazi’s and remind people that it is OK when Labour do it. Having defended the MPs right to help themselves we are however left to ponder; If it’s not Labour it will be National so who would you rather spent your money on prostitutes, fine wine and porn?

      • Inventory2 9.1.1

        So on that basis Red, I presume that the left is going to stop attacking Bill English over his housing allowances, given that he has paid everything back, so it’s no longer a public expense …

        No? Quelle surprise…

        • RedLogix 9.1.1.1

          You are ignoring the obvious difference, Labour’s private expenses were all repaid ages ago, pretty much as a part of a normal administrative process. One I’ve taken part in myself many, many times when in corporate life. I’m also not aware that any Labour Minister attempted to deny or unjustifiably delay legitimate repayments.

          Double Dipton however only repaid a portion of his rip-off, and only after weeks of public approbrium when he realised the depth of public anger and the damage to his political career. Moreover Bill had manipulated his affairs to directly exploit the maximum possible advantage he could extract from the rules.

          • Inventory2 9.1.1.1.1

            I’m also not aware that any Labour Minister attempted to deny or unjustifiably delay legitimate repayments.

            So you didn’t catch up that Chris Carter has only just (as in since the revelations broke) paid back personal expenditure dating back to 2004? I guess not.

            • RedLogix 9.1.1.1.1.1

              If you’re going to introduce new evidence, you need a citation.

              • With pleasure 🙂

                9.15AM: Mr Carter also bought flowers for his partner’s birthday in 2004 and purchased a movie in a Washington hotel on New Year’s Eve in 2006.

                Mr Carter said he had carefully checked his records and it appeared he had used the cards outside of the rules on five occasions.

                On March 8, 2004, he spent $80 on flowers for his partner’s birthday.

                On December 31, 2006, he spent $25.49 on a movie in a hotel in Washington.

                There was also a movie purchased by a staff member at a hotel in Berlin, costing $23.15.

                Mr Carter said a cheque for $251.16 would be sent to the department of internal affairs to cover the amount of the five errant spends.

                “My ministerial office was a very busy place. … Small mistakes were perhaps inevitable, but never excusable.”

                http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/3793561/Scrutiny-over-MPs-credit-card-bills

                • RedLogix

                  $250 dating back over what …4 years.

                  umm… does the term ‘pettifogging’ mean anything to you?

          • burt 9.1.1.1.2

            I nailed it; when it’s your team say it is inconsequential, when it’s the other team call out that the sky is falling.

            You must regret fooling yourself that your team followed the rules and the other team didn’t in such a public way after Inventory2 made such a mockery of your partisan stance.

            This is why we have such simple rules, so partisan hackery can’t be used to justify the same things in our team that we complain about from the other team. I do however appreciate that when the Ministers signed the agreement to never use the ministerial credit card for personal expenses that there was bound to be a level of confusion over what that actually meant. The old chestnut of ‘the rules were confusing’ has been a saving grace for the rule makers on many occasions, giving up that juvenile defense was always going to be a painful process of public humiliation for MPs.

            When your team expenses are returned from PS with a “Not allowed’ I’ll say they were trying to slip it past the gatekeeper and you will say it was an honest admin error. When my team expenses are returned from PS with a “Not allowed’ I’ll say they made an honest admin error and you will say they were trying to slip it past the gatekeeper. Is this too hard for you to understand? Can you appreciate why they were told to not do it at all, why they were required to sign saying they wouldn’t?

            It’s not about what you and I think is the best process for them, it is about following the rules they agreed to, not the ones you and I might think appropriate depending on which team we are talking about and how we feel on the day. This is public money we are talking about

      • RedLogix 9.1.2

        We were all very quick to forgive Hide’s troughing once he paid it back.

        Hide only paid it back after being found out, trying to stare down the blatant personal hypoccrisy involved and weeks of public pressure.

        If it’s not Labour it will be National so who would you rather spent your money on prostitutes, fine wine and porn?

        Who cares what MP’s spend their own money on burt?

        Lets face it, if you have had 70 warnings about personal expenses on the tax payers dime you are going to think pretty carefully to avoid the 71st warning.

        Stupid administrative process. Everyone knew that some relatively minor personal expenses, associated with travel, were likely to finish up on ministerial cards…for all sorts of practical reasons. As pointed out above, realistically if these warnings constituted anything more than a bit of administrative box-ticking, then matters would never have gotten to 72 warnings.

        But you of course are our chief anal-retentive nit-picker round here; you’ll split hairs and turn slice and dice ‘principle’ until there is nothing left. It’s boring and pointless, and no-one really takes much notice of that sort of antic anymore burt. We’ve seen this faux-principled posturing on your part over and over.

        Besides I take if you think it’s so essential to retrospectively scrutinise ministerial expenses going back 5 years or so, why stop there? Hell there must be decades of old receipts lying around in musty boxes for you to pore over.

  10. roffle! I wasn’t going to comment until I saw word verification was “commercial”, double roffle with cheese and onions

  11. Sam Finnemore 11

    A fun read. In fact, bookmarked, since I presume Bunji won’t mind if this gets recycled and dropped on him/her should s/he criticise National ministers’ credit card or expenses spending in future – since obviously it’s all gravy as long as it gets paid back sometime later.

    Word verification: “bites”.

    • RedLogix 11.1

      since obviously it’s all gravy as long as it gets paid back sometime later.

      So when an expense is reimbursed privately, who ultimately bore the expense?

      The taxpayer or the minister?

      Is the expense now public or private?

      Is there a difference between the open scrutiny of public accounts, and the accounts of private individuals?

      Do you think that because an expense briefly appeared on a public account, this justifies the retrospective breach of privacy that has gone on here?

      When you’ve worked that out, get back to us.

      • Sam Finnemore 11.1.1

        “Do you think that because an expense briefly appeared on a public account, this justifies the retrospective breach of privacy that has gone on here?”

        I don’t think there has been a breach of privacy. No minister’s private bank balance or spending has been revealed – just the spending which they undertook with government credit cards, using public money. That is what has been made visible via the OIA.

        Even if reimbursed, public money has still been used for specifically forbidden purposes. As we are seeing with other issues in the media this week, it’s vital that the use of public money is transparent so that governments are accountable to the public.

        If ministers feel their privacy has been breached when spending on private expenses is revealed via OIA requests, then they shouldn’t use public funds for such spending in any way in the first place, even if they do reimburse those amounts.

        • RedLogix 11.1.1.1

          Total fail to answer the question. I’ll try one more time:

          So when an expense is reimbursed privately, who ultimately bore the expense?

          The taxpayer or the minister?

          Is the expense now public or private?

          The answer can only be yes or no…there is no wriggle room.

          If ministers feel their privacy has been breached when spending on private expenses is revealed via OIA

          When the spending was incurred, ie some years ago, was that spending actually subject to OIA requests at the time? If not, what has justified the retrospective change in treatment?

          • Martin English 11.1.1.1.1

            To be honest, I can’t take this anything from site about expenses, corruption etc seriously, after it’s support for Peters, but here goes …..

            So when an expense is reimbursed privately, who ultimately bore the expense?
            The original cost is borne by the Minister. However, in Carters case, where he is paying back money owed for 6 years, it should be very obvious that the taxpayer is bearing the cost of the Minister having that money. Yes, it’s a pissant piece of money in real terms to you and me, but it is real money and real principles are involved.

            Is the expense now public or private?
            The original expense or the interest expense ? The interest expense is obviously Public (nobody has mentioned paying that back). The original expense (whenever it was paid back) was incurred using a government account. If we (the great unwashed) don’t have the right to see the mechanics of the transfer of money from the Minister to the taxpayer for that expense, we make deliberate or accidental misuse much easier.

            When the spending was incurred, ie some years ago, was that spending actually subject to OIA requests at the time? If not, what has justified the retrospective change in treatment?
            This isn’t clear – are you talking about whether an OIA request at the time of the original expenditure would have been able to capture this error ? If there’s any question about whether the 6 year old claim by Carter was covered by the latest OIA request or not, it raises the convenient possibility that we only hear about, say, the last couple of years…. i.e. National troughers get caught and embarrassed, yet the long term serial ALP troughers don’t. And I’d make the point again that Carter has only just paid back expenses from 2004.

            hope this helps.
            BTW, the citation re Carter’s late payment is above.

            • RedLogix 11.1.1.1.1.1

              Yes, it’s a pissant piece of money in real terms to you and me, but it is real money and real principles are involved.

              Nah … its a pissant amount of money and was obviously the result of trivial administrative error in Carter’s office. Leveraging that into ‘real money and real principle’ is just risible.

              And the interest content of the expense is again an utterly pissant sum of money. Over this a man’s political career is to be trashed? Really have you no sense of perspective?

              • “Really have you no sense of perspective” LOL and
                “obviously the result of trivial administrative error in Carter’s office” Obviously! This is gold and is OBVIOUSLY worth another ROFL!

            • r0b 11.1.1.1.1.2

              To be honest, I can’t take this anything from site about expenses, corruption etc seriously, after it’s support for Peters

              Support for Peters? Remind me here Martin – could you fish out some examples?

            • lprent 11.1.1.1.1.3

              To be honest, I can’t take this anything from site about expenses, corruption etc seriously, after it’s support for Peters

              By support do you mean that some of the authors here were not interested in being part of a braying mob of unthinking idiots, but instead insisting that the judicial system should be used rather than lynching by media?

              I guess these subtleties of the legal process have managed to bypass your brain. Count yourself as one of the talkback taliban. Small minds with a religious distaste for rational legal thinking. Also known as fuckwits….

              • Dean

                IrishBill: You’re right Dean. We’re authoritarian. You win: you’re banned for life.

                • singularian

                  IrishBill: and you can have a week.

                • lprent

                  Bullshit. Your idea would hold water if I’d stopped calling you a idiot in a lynch mob after the election result was announced (and politically it became pointless).

                  But I suspect I’ve written more about your type of talkback taliban (thanks BLiP for the phrase) thinking since the election on this topic than I did before the election. That is because I find it extremely reprehensible. Making up scurrilous attacks that cannot be proven or even worth bringing charges for is the epitome of gutter politics.

                  I just point out people who act like arseholes where ever I see them. You seem to fit the bill.

            • Luxated 11.1.1.1.1.4

              ALP, Martin? Wrong country -mate-.

              • Martin English

                heh – busted !! – You’re right, I’m in Oz. Consider me another economic refugee 🙂

          • Sam Finnemore 11.1.1.1.2

            Sorry if I’m causing you frustration.

            My impression was that if the spending was unauthorised at the time (some years ago) – private expenses paid using public money, even if later then reimbursed – then it would be a matter of public record at the point where it was lodged on a government credit card, and could be reasonably expected to be revealed by an OIA request or similar at some point. Thus the decision to make the (now) private expense a matter of public record was made at the point when the minister concerned charged that private expense to a public credit card.

            Feel free to call me on this if I’m wrong (as if you needed the encouragement…)

            Maybe it really wasn’t expected amongst ministers at the time that their breaches of these rules might eventually come to public attention. Personally in the same situation I would have taken a lot more care to obey the rules to ensure nothing came back to bite me in future, even if it did cause me inconvenience to do so, but perhaps I’m just an impossible hidebound stickler for the rules that way.

            • RedLogix 11.1.1.1.2.1

              So you’ve called them as a public expense.

              So then why should the Ministers involved not ask for the monies they repaid Parliamentary Serivces under false pretences to be repaid them?

              • Sam Finnemore

                You may have misread. I said they were now a *private* expense, but that they had been made a matter of public record by virtue of public money having been wrongfully used as part of the payment trail, and hence that the information releases weren’t a breach of privacy…

                • RedLogix

                  but that they had been made a matter of public record by virtue of public money having been wrongfully used as part of the payment trail, and hence that the information releases weren’t a breach of privacy

                  OK so now it’s private expenditure. Therefore on principle it should have remained private, the public really had no business knowing about it, nor could have there been reasonable justification for a full week of media onanism over the matter.

                  However it appears you are prepared to trash that the right to privacy….because of a paperwork trail.

                  mmm….a very low threshold you have there.

                  • Stoppit, stoppit: my ribs are aching now! “OK so now it’s private expenditure”. Tell me, RedLogix: if the “private expenditure” had been blacked out with a chisel-point marker pen, would you have been satisfied?
                    “Oi: what’s with all the deletions?”
                    “Oh, that’s just private stuff that was reimbursed, so you don’t need to concern yourself with that”
                    “Eh? Don’t the rules say NO PRIVATE EXPENDITURE to be put on the cards?”
                    ” ‘ “

    • Bunji 11.2

      If they reconcile genuine expenses without first being discovered, then, yes, I shall see no need to criticise them. I’m not saying that the Labour ex-ministers were perfect – taking a year rather than a month to pay back your bill is a bit naughty – but not worth a week of undivided media attention, and not worth spending >$50k to find out. It just seems like an easy beat-up by a National Party desperate to distract, and a national media desperate for a UK-style expenses scandal.

      (And I’ll admit to being a he, if it makes your threats/promises easier 🙂 )

      • Sam Finnemore 11.2.1

        Don’t worry, I don’t have the time or inclination to follow your posts looking for a chance to drop you in it in future… 🙂 Was more a way of making a point than an actual promise – and certainly I didn’t intend it as a threat. Will de-bookmark if it saves you the stress, though!

        Agreed that there are more important issues that could be focused upon – but as noted above I think the spending was clearly outside the rules set down. So the way forward for a party in this situation I think is to admit that openly, take the hit, and then come back strong on topics of more import; crying foul over the timing of the release, or claiming everyone else does it too, still doesn’t change the fact that the spending was against the rules, and doing so will only prolong the embarrassment and the diversion of attention from more serious issues.

  12. Rob 12

    Surely there will be an OIA request in mid 2011 to enquire about ministers cc use from Nov 2008 that cannot possibly be denied as it will be in the public interest and may enlighten us about lots of travel expenses etc from that time. Hide, Grosser, McCully Hone Key etc

    • Inventory2 12.1

      It shouldn’t be necessary Rob – Key has proposed quarterly disclosure of ministerial spending, at the same time as MP’s travel information is released. That has to be a step in the right direction.

    • Vanilla Eis 12.2

      Key has announced that they will be releasing credit-card expenditure on a quarterly basis. No OIA request required.

      edit: Beaten to it.

  13. great piece Bunji

  14. taranaki 14

    Christ on a stick, what a stupid post. The price of spending other people’s money is to be accountable to those same people. I travel for work and I’m bloody careful about what spending my employer pays. I expect MPs to be the same, and don’t think it unreasonable. It might take more effort, it might take longer – but that is the price of accountability. Suck it up. And these disclosures show that scrutiny is both needed and deserved.

    I’m not without some sympathy for the MP who recently decided to work from home rather than return to the House, as we are seeing witch hunts in the media at present, but really this MP is overreacting. We expect to pay for MPs to fly about the country doing the work they are elected and paid to do – NZers are pretty reasonable in this regard, even if Duncan Garner isn’t (which is why Garner is universally loathed and rates like a dead parrot).

    No one would reasonably begrudge travelling between an electorate and the House. And in this case the MP easily could justify the cost – so no drama.

    But my feeling is that errant Labour MPs deserve all the opprobrium they receive at the moment, I have no sympathy for the stupidity of Jones or Carter, and believe that Carter especially is a liability who I would prefer not to darken our electoral ballots again.

    And all credit to the blue team – they’ve escaped largely unscathed, despite massive blowouts on alcohol clearly outside of the rules, and Bill English’s shoddy manipulation of trusts to maximise his income. Cries of media bias are hard to take seriously when Labour is so clearly sleeping in a bed of its own making.

    • RedLogix 14.1

      The problem is that because everyone in the system realises this episode is an ugly witch-hunt no-one knows whether expenditure deemed reasonable this week, is not going to be exhumed and used as an excuse for a political crucifixion next week.

      And all credit to the blue team they’ve escaped largely unscathed, despite massive blowouts on alcohol clearly outside of the rules, and Bill English’s shoddy manipulation of trusts to maximise his income.

      You implicitly acknowledge the blatant double standard, and are pleased about it. Noted.

      • taranaki 14.1.1

        Labour was founded on a set of values that its own MPs failed to live up to. That taste in your mouth is humble pie – time to eat it.

        There’s no point whining about the double standard when Labour are clearly the bigger offenders in the first place – it just makes it look like the left are trying to shift blame and avoid consequences of personal wrong doing.

        • RedLogix 14.1.1.1

          Labour was founded on a set of values that its own MPs failed to live up to.

          Interesting to see this expressed so clearly; how the remnants of ideas that justify class divisions are still so embedded in many people’s minds. What you are saying is that it’s bad thing for a Labour politician to drink a bottle of wine, but it’s ok for a National one. What if they were sharing a glass from the same bottle? How would you solve that dilemma?

          And I suppose conversely because National is the party representing …say enterprise and ambition… then it’s just fine for them to spend whatever they like because, well they are rich people and better than us ordinary folk.

          Obviously the rules don’t apply to them.

          There’s no point whining about the double standard when Labour are clearly the bigger offenders in the first place

          Oh I don’t know. That’s pretty much an artifact of the the time periods involved. The Nat records can only go back a portion of this first term, and after all for much of that the new regime of public transparency around Ministerial expenses would have been common knowledge. They had every pre-warning.

          By contrast we’ve trolled back through Labour’s administration 5 years or so. Of course that opened up a bigger can of worms. At the time people were legitimately acting within the expectations of the day. Always slippery ground to be on when retrospectively re-writing that sort of thing.

          How about we go back through the whole of the 90’s National administration? Think that would be squeaky clean?

          • burt 14.1.1.1.1

            Always slippery ground to be on when retrospectively re-writing that sort of thing.

            You don’t get it do you. There has been nothing re-written about the rules. Your self serving bunch got away with pretending the AG change the rules after they ignored the warnings of the Chief Electoral Officer (David Henry) in 2005. Having chosen to ignore that warning then then said the rules had been changed and under urgency validated their theft of $800,000 to tilt the election playing field. In opposition they can’t use parliament for their own self serving purpose….

            How about we get all the forms these people signed agreeing to not use the ministerial cards for personal expenses – if they were on display you would probably still say the rules had changed.

            Give up, your team have been found with their snouts in the trough again but this time they can’t pervert democracy to make their issues go away.

            • RedLogix 14.1.1.1.1.1

              There has been nothing re-written about the rules.

              burt, burt… I said nothing about re-writing the rules. What DID change was the ability for the media to access them, and the fact that back in Labour’s term the before the GFC collapse no-one really gave a rats arse about a few personal expenses appearing for a month or two on a cc before being reimbursed.

              I’m always uncomfortable about disinterring history and re-examining what people did under expectations that did not apply at the time. By all means clarify the way the rules are applied and move forward…but re-litigating history is a pointless and often unjust affair.

              How about we get all the forms these people signed agreeing to not use the ministerial cards for personal expenses

              Almost all of these expenses were incurred in the course of travel… when away from home working for the taxpayer. You’ve got this fixed idea in your petty little brain that all pollies are greedy troughers, but you really have no concept of just how much time, energy and work most of them put into it. And most especially how the glamour of business travel wears off very, very quickly. Whatever it is you are being paid, it really doesn’t compensate from being away from home, family and friends. It all comes at quite a high personal cost, one you often don’t discover until years later. (As I did…)

              And if in the course of that time away from home, often a stressful, busy time… a few extra expenses get aggregated onto the cc that are later deemed personal and repaid as part of a normal administrative process…. then it really is inconsequential …in your own words.

              Of course rules are important, but equally so is discretion and good judgement, knowing what purpose the rules serve and how and when to apply them sensibly is considered a sign of adult maturity. But I see you hopping up and down obsessively pointing to your precious policy book, slavishly insisting like some pimply conformist school prefect with a tin badge that it must be observed to the literal letter.

              Meantime back from burtland, in the real world, rules get a little bent around the margins all the time and life would be unliveable if we didn’t.

              • TightyRighty

                pretty rich coming from someone who supports the clipboard-bearing nanny staters.

                • RedLogix

                  tr,

                  Lefties and righties see rules as quite different things.

                  When I see a rule I want to know what it’s underlying purpose and intention it has, and then I go about fulfilling that intention as best I can. If in the process the literal interpretation of the rule gets a little, or even quite bent of shape… as long as I can demonstrate good intent, a better or more innovating outcome, or simply that the consequences of my shortcut are trifling and trivial … well that’s how progress gets made.

                  Lefties believe rules serve a purpose, but if we never challenged the orthodoxy, nothing would ever improve.

                  Righties on the other hand see the rules as some sort of game. They see a rule as an opportunity to see how literally close to the edge of it that they can possibly sail to. Or better still to see how they can use it to knee-cap their opposition. Bit like how soccer players will take dives to try and fool the ref …a rule is simply another tool in the game.

                  For righties rules are a way of preserving and gaming the status quo.

                  • TightyRighty

                    Red, the only rules that lefties ever see to serve a purpose involve those that enable you to impose your will on other people whose views don’t agree with yours. And if your so questioning of the orthodoxy, how come the goal isn’t to beat it? how come it’s always to make it more equitable? is it because you know your not good enough to beat it?

                    • RedLogix

                      I knew I didn’t have it correct because I find it hard to get into your way of thinking; but that little gem of yours above I’m keeping note of…it’s concise and accurate. Thanks.

          • burt 14.1.1.1.2

            RedLogix

            You said “At the time people were legitimately acting within the expectations of the day.” followed directly by “Always slippery ground to be on when retrospectively re-writing that sort of thing.”

            Then you said; “burt, burt I said nothing about re-writing the rules. What DID change was the ability for the media to access them”

            So therefore “legitimately acting within the expectations of the day” must have really been publicly appearing within the expectations of the day.

            Are you defending their non compliance with their own regulations because they didn’t expect to be found out?

            • RedLogix 14.1.1.1.2.1

              Are you defending their non compliance with their own regulations because they didn’t expect to be found out?

              No, because no-one anticipated that we would have a political environment so debased and petty that something this trifling would ever become an issue.

            • burt 14.1.1.1.2.2

              Think of it as ‘A new standard of openness and accountability’ RedLogix. It was one of Helen Clark’s campaign trail promises, you may have even voted for it more than once. It’s a bitter pill when it takes down people you like, but its better for the herd in the long run.

              • RedLogix

                And compared to the 90’s we got what Helen promised, but while rules have a legitimate constructive purpose, they can also be used by bullies and authoritarian fascists in a destructive manner. And this govt is now accumulating quite a disturbing record of using private information to publically humiliate and destroy it’s opponents. It’s a form of herd mentality called ‘mobbing’…look it up.

                But that’s the kind of pill bumptious little school prefects love swallowing. Over and over.

  15. TightyRighty 15

    Nats’ sense of entitlement behind credit card abuse

    says it all really

    hat tip: Davey Crockett over at the dim post

  16. IrishBill 16

    I’m calling bullshit on this post. The spending done was out of order and politically stupid. It’s inexcusable and making excuses for it makes the site look stupid.

    • RedLogix 16.1

      I can see how you feel like that IB. After all the whole affair is stupid and out of order. Really most sensible nations wouldn’t stoop to a political scandal over something as trifling and petty as this. It must be dammned annoying that valuable time and political capital has been frittered away over this piffling fake outrage.

      But as long as Labour continues to eat shit …they will keep on feeding it to us.

      • IrishBill 16.1.1

        Most nations have better scandals but this is not about the media it’s about the failure of Labour MPs to act like Labour MPs and of poor political management from Goff.

        Some MPs could keep their hands off the public’s money. Goff thought he’d use the situation to hang them out to dry and look tough. The whole thing has blown up for all of them. Fuck ’em. they deserve each other.

        • burt 16.1.1.1

          Here here.

        • RedLogix 16.1.1.2

          Some MPs could keep their hands off the public’s money.

          Most of the the expenses were repaid ages ago…long before any public scrutiny.(With a piffling $250 exception from Carter covering 5 items over 4 years.) Therefore no public monies were molested, they were paid for privately. If you want to hang the bastards for misspending public monies …. then at least have the decency to repay them for the reimbursements that have been demanded off them under false pretences.

          Goff thought he’d use the situation to hang them out to dry and look tough.

          Which I agree has backfired badly. Will be the end of him.

          • burt 16.1.1.2.1

            then at least have the decency to repay them for the reimbursements that have been demanded off them under false pretences.

            That’s not how it works if I’m shabby paying my taxes. Is that how it works when you “borrow” public money for your own purposes?

            Without calculating use of money or estimating any unreasonable tax position or debt recovery costs, just the penalties for $250 unpaid tax after 4 years would take it to $388.26. Special people just pay the principle, the rest of us are bound by their rules governing misuse of the public purse and we face all the teeth these same people think are necessary to create compliance with the rules they write.

            You defend it, you are a long way in so why stop now.

            • RedLogix 16.1.1.2.1.1

              For someone whose so keen of the letter of the law being followed to the literal letter, I ‘m astonished that suddenly you want to impose a new rule on interest costs …when no such rule has ever existed.

              Bit like a shop offering 24 months ‘interest free’ then when you go to make your last payment and discharge the HP, the shop turns around and says…nah…we’ve changed our mind, here’s an extra charge for the interest we said we wouldn’t charge you.

              If you want a rule for imposing late penalty fees on ministerial cc’s then go knock yourself out and get one introduced….but even you will have trouble getting one retrospectively applied.

              • Disengaged

                I’m sorry RL but this argument is just ridiculous. It’s not changing the rules retrospectively. The rule has always been clear that there was not to be any private spending on Ministerial credit cards. So there was, or should, never have been any expectation from Ministers that they would have interest free access to public money until such time as it was paid back.

                The thing that annoys me about this argument is that they were/are the law makers. If the law was unclear or unworkable they should have worked with the DIA to change or clarify the rules. Ignoring the rules and then bleating about it being unfair when you get caught is childish and does not put our politicians in a good light. Especially as that is a luxury that the general public isn’t afforded. Try arguing with the IRD, Police or SFO that the law was unclear and see how far you get.

                The transparency on spending is in general a good thing, granted at the moment the pendulum has swung too far towards the reactionary with every expense being blown up as a scandal. But, hopefully once this histeria dies down it will result in Ministers being more circumspect in how they spend public money.

                The good news is that the majority of Ministers (on both sides of the fence) have now proven to have worked within the rules and have been careful with how they spend money. It just doesn’t make as sensational a news story I guess.

                Oh, and as to your other point about the rules being changed to “retrospectively” reveal these costs, I wasn’t aware that National had changed the OIA. It’s just that no-one thought to ask for these details in the past (or Labour had previously declined to release them).

                • RedLogix

                  It’s not changing the rules retrospectively.

                  I’d suggest your reading of the thread has been a little …skimpy. The retrospective dig was at burt’s suggestion that we introduce a whole new ‘late payment penalty fee’ to Ministerial cc cards. That would be a whole new rule.

                  The rest of your argument has been covered in the thread elsewhere.

                  • Disengaged

                    I’d suggest that your reading of my point was a little skimpy as I was addressing your analogy about interest free charges. When I said:

                    “The rule has always been clear that there was not to be any private spending on Ministerial credit cards. So there was, or should, never have been any expectation from Ministers that they would have interest free access to public money until such time as it was paid back. ”

                    So applying a use of money charge or similar would not have been unduly harsh and nor would it have required a change of rules as the rule had already been breached.

  17. really 17

    IB said “Some MPs could keep their hands off the public’s money.”

    But most of them couldn’t.

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