Ministers are given self-drive taxpayer-funded cars for official business in their electorates (in Wellington they have crown limos at their disposal for official business). Pretty logically, the cars were always based at the ministers’ primary place of residence because that’s where they would need it.
But that presented a problem for Bill ‘Double Dipton’ English. Because his primary place of residence is not actually where he lives. He says he is based in Dipton when in fact he and his family live in Wellington and rarely visit Dipton. The reason for the facade? Simple: money; our money. By pretending he lived in Dipton, English was able to claim $48,000 a year from we, the taxpayers, for the cost of his Wellington accommodation under the allowance for out of town ministers. A mammoth rort that would have gotten any other minister in any other government fired in a heartbeat.
Not only has John Key not fired English, we now learn that he has given English and other ministers another loophole to exploit.
See the problem with English claiming his primary place of residence is Dipton is, by the old rules, that meant his self-drive car had to be in Dipton too where he would rarely use it. If he acknowledged Wellington was his primary residence, he could have the car there but not get the accommodation money. Having a free car where English actually lives, rather than in Dipton, would worth a few grand a year but that was far outweighed by the money he was rorting out of his family home. But what’s the point of being a Tory in government if you can’t have your cake and eat it?
Key changed the rules so that the self-drive car no longer has to be based at the primary place of residence. Hey presto! English gets to claim he lives in Dipton and take the accommodation cash while simultaneously having the free car meant for use in his electorate.
David Oughton, head the of Remuneration Authority says this “may be of significant benefit to some members”. We know it’s Double Dipton grabbing another fistful of our money for himself.