Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Costly indeed

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  • Martin Lindberg,

    I don't mind that he watched "blue movies" (honestly, who says that anymore?) so long as he didn't, you know, 'gratify' himself.

    'Cos that would be a sin.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 796 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    May I ask, is this exlusively a non-unserious Friday thread?

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    And just for the sake of clarity, this was my comment on Heatley and Brownlee at the time:

    I think their breaches of the extremely tight rules (which don't even allow the minister to reimburse spending on his or her card) are trivial, and Goff's attempt to beat it up was weak, if inevitable.

    Although it did emerge that Heatley's case was worse than it first appeared, especially given that he made no attempt at repayment until after it had become a story.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18804 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    These card are administered by Ministerial Services, but the bill goes to the applicable ministry.

    That's interesting, I presumed this was all paid for by ministerial services. What do they do if the travel is for two ministries? Or they are a minister for something that doesn't have a ministry? Does the same thing apply to ministerial housing etc - is that paid by their ministry?

    Presumably ordinary MPs costs while travelling etc are covered by parliamentary services?

    Since Nov 2006 • 6162 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    If the person volunteers that it's personal expenditure themselves, and pays up before the interest-free period has expired

    uh, surely the bill would've been paid in its entirety before the due date, and then issues of reimbursement resolved at a later date? I mean, do you really think the responsible official would've looked through the bill, said "This, this, this, clearly OK, we'll pay them, that and that, a bit sus, need querying, and that is obviously outside the rules and we're not going to pay it."? Really? Of course not. The statement would've been paid in full and then issues of questionable expenditure left until later. The matter of the interest-free period is a complete non-issue.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3901 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    And to be fair Craig, you were equally disapproving of Phil Heatley's greater and more egregious spending. You did also note that Heatley was a "genuinely nice guy" who had suffered a failure of judgement. Perhaps we could say the same of Brown.

    @Russell: I also noted that no matter how nice Phil and Shane and Len might be, there's a point where my patience is exhausted. One incident -- ten Our Fathers, ten Hail Marys, one smack in the ears, go forth and sin no more. But when there's an entrenched pattern of behaviour, whose exposure leads to a lot of "not getting it" damage control? You've crossed the line from venal to mortal sin.

    (And, FWIW, I also don't think Heatley should be in Cabinet now. The Auditor-General might have been right on the legal point, but IMO the rules are fucked. The man used his ministerial credit card to buy alcohol at a party conference dinner. Nice guy, but not ministerial material in my book.)

    As far as Brown is concerned, it's not the $56 ham that gets up my nose. But that the charge should never have been run up in the first place, according to the Council's own crystal clear and explicit policy.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11897 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Me! Me! I love Toblerone! We used to get it but once a year as a massive treat from duty-free on the ferry back from Europe after the family summer holiday. Yum!

    Yeah, me too. My oldest brother used to bring it back from England for us when I was a kid.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4349 posts Report Reply

  • Grace Dalley,

    Craig: whoa, I never said cheating on expenses was OK. But you're drawing a long bow to suggest that's on a par with police and judicial corruption.

    Of course we want public servants to be models of probity, I'd just like this scandal to be kept in proportion.

    Where the government decides to spend or not spend public money as a matter of policy, and the changes they make to our laws, and to publically-held assets: that's where I think the media should be focussing its attention. I think this expenses scandal is a distraction.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2008 • 138 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Just in from the tireless file elves at the Dom post:

    Mr Key's staff charged various expenses against their credit card - mostly for overseas accommodation and gifts to foreign dignitaries.

    Among the receipts, was a bill for $1115.65 at the HYS Steakhouse in Honolulu. The bill included three bottles of wine at $120 each and a further $105 for drinks from the bar. The meal was for 10 people including Mr Key, his staff, Government officials and RNZAF air crew while en route by air force to CHOGM conference in Trinidad last year.

    As you might expect, I think this is fairly reasonable. Although it's interesting that the spending has been attributed to staff, which appears to have been the case for the Labour ministers too.

    There's also some stuff about Anderton daring to stay in, like, hotels while in Europe. Presumably ministers will now all look for the cheapest backpacker's.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18804 posts Report Reply

  • FletcherB,

    uh, surely the bill would've been paid in its entirety before the due date, and then issues of reimbursement resolved at a later date? I mean, do you really think the responsible official would've looked through the bill, said "This, this, this, clearly OK, we'll pay them, that and that, a bit sus, need querying, and that is obviously outside the rules and we're not going to pay it."?

    No, no, thats not what I was thinking at all...

    If the officials have to ask the card-holder, its already too late.... the key word was "volunteer"

    I was thinking the Minister might, you know, present the receipt from the sale with a "this one is mine, heres the cheque" note as soon as they get back to the office.... before the credit card bill has arrived for payment and examination....

    Minister "Heres the $450 hotel bill.... line item 5 and 7 are my personal expenses and heres a cheque for $37.50."

    That doesnt bother me at all (despite it being against the rules).

    Official "Hey, whats this $37.50?" too late- you're a theif

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 794 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    As you might expect, I think this is fairly reasonable.

    My first reaction is "well I don't mind the taxpayer picking up the tab for all you to have dinner, and I don't mind there being some bottles of wine on the table for everyone to have a glass or two. But $120/bottle? That's a dinner that should top out at $800."

    But I do realise that this is relatively small fry in the big scheme of things.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6162 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Craig: whoa, I never said cheating on expenses was OK. But you're drawing a long bow to suggest that's on a par with police and judicial corruption.

    You certainly didn't and I wasn't trying to say otherwise, but see how you could reasonably read it that way. But my point was that while you may find the coverage here "disproportionate", I find it rather endearing that we still give a shit. In nations where a kleptocratic political culture is entrenched, that really does affect lives. Terribly. May we never let that happen here.

    As you might expect, I think this is fairly reasonable. Although it's interesting that the spending has been attributed to staff, which appears to have been the case for the Labour ministers too.

    Sure, just as I have my doubts that Grosser's ministerial career has been one long alcoholic blackout.

    But did you catch Mita Ririnui claiming that he got advice from Ministerial Services that his contentious charges were OK? (Sorry, can't find a link on the RNZ website.) He better have that advice in writing, because the MS spokesman I heard sure seemed to get as close to calling "bullshit" in public as a civil servant is ever going to get.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11897 posts Report Reply

  • st ephen,

    Personally, I don't object to politicians making one credit card transaction instead of two. I presume their hotels are booked on a charge-back basis, and they hand over a credit card for any additional expenses, which will be a mixture of personal and official. I'm not sure that having them go through the printout line by line when checking out is sensible use of their time while in Tokyo or Copenhagen or where-ever.

    I do expect them to reimburse personal spending as soon as is possible. And it seems that mostly they have done this. Yes, in theory it's dangerous to have pollies ignoring the strict rules around ministerial credit card use. Because if they do that, then next they will....what exactly? Well, now we know - they will forget to reimburse the taxpayer for a few relatively trivial things. So I'm not feeling the outrage, but I am glad that this is all sorted now before the current lot go too far down the "be more like Australia" route.

    dunedin • Since Jul 2008 • 198 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Yah, Ririnui quite determined he was told person expenses were okay if he paid them back. While that does explain his behaviour, it makes me question his grip.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1095 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    All this focus on "policy" and "rules" and "guidelines."

    Don't real manly men in charge just make their own rules? By passing Acts of Parliament, if necessary? If a bloke wants a bottle of wine with dinner, or a few 1000 cubic metres of irrigation water, why should some pencil-necked bureaucrat's bleating about conventions and rules get in his way? Journalists should be focussing on stuff that really matters, like how much it rains in New Zealand. I don't hear nearly enough about that in the news and it's about time the Government did something about it. Maybe Sir Geoffrey could be appointed to write a report, as long as he doesn't use the word "pluvial."

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2947 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Martin,

    Minister "Heres the $450 hotel bill.... line item 5 and 7 are my personal expenses and heres a cheque for $37.50."

    That doesnt bother me at all (despite it being against the rules).

    Agreed. In fact I would go so far as to amend said rules to allow this.
    Plenty of restaurants won't split accounts...hotels with a party of several guests seem to be just as reluctant.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 184 posts Report Reply

  • Grace Dalley,

    Craig: righto, now we understand each other :-)
    Stephen J: haha that is very funny. But actually we hear quite a lot about the weather in the news! Here in Chch we have been having a pluvially good time. :-)

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2008 • 138 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    no motes

    And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

    - Matthew 7:3

    (This message brought to you by King James)

    I'd also quite like to know who gets to collect all the airpoints.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2390 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Large numbers of us have had, used and abused company credit cards. Lots of us have been out on the town after the company Xmas bash and had our boss put a round of shots on the company card and then slide it past accounts next month. Lots of us have used the company credit card, only for the manager to say that using it for that purchase is really pushing the rules and you should pay for that one yourself. It is normal behaviour, even if it isn't within the rules.

    That is why as far as I can tell this is regarded as a titillating story, a bit of a window into the gilded cage of government, but not the huge story the media is making it out to be. Most people I talk to are just not that very worried about it, especially when they realise Shane Jones and like didn't actually rip the tax-payer off, they just used the wrong credit card and paid it back later. We've all been there, done that.

    In fact, the lunatic overkill of the media circus is in danger of creating a significant backlash in public opinion.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1791 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I'm also on the reimbursement is OK provided it's done promptly camp - Anderton had a good point today when he pointed out that so long as things were settled quickly the govt got the money before they see the Visa bill.

    Resolving stuff at the hotel desk as you check out would be insane especially of you're paying for the 10 people in your party (who ordered the peanuts from the mini-bar?).

    I travel a lot for work and I do the opposite - run everything through my private credit card then expense it - corporate cards are actually a bad idea for employees (as often if the company goes under and doesn't pay the bills you're stuck with them .... a friend was stuck with $50k once) - better to manage the payment yourself

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2100 posts Report Reply

  • ScottY,

    This is appalling stuff by our politicians. So they are human after all, and make mistakes. Something has to change.

    The sooner our robot masters emerge from the shadows to rule us the better.

    Yorke of The Atatu • Since Feb 2009 • 789 posts Report Reply

  • Grace Dalley,

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2008 • 138 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I must say that aside from the silly puritan angle with the porn I find all these scandals - the Taito Philip Fields grouting saga, the Bollinger, the rented films, the minibar - immensely endearing. I come from a country where the expense accounts of Parlamentarians reach tryly epic proportions. One of our MPs charged a whole house to it, and when it came up he claimed not to know about it (which spawned the brilliant Facebook group "People who buy you a house without your knowledge"). I also approve of the taking of exception. Again, not necessarily of the tone of the coverage, but that people should be bothered - yeah, I think it's very healthy.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7352 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    I, for one, will welcome our new, perfect, robot overlords.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3901 posts Report Reply

  • slarty,

    Large numbers of us have had, used and abused company credit cards. Lots of us have been out on the town after the company Xmas bash and had our boss put a round of shots on the company card and then slide it past accounts next month

    Oh yes. I vaguely recall turning up at Euro for lunch and departing after midnight, having had a variety of people pop in and out during the day. Reminds me of that never ending party in HHGTTG. And then there was the time at NZ Post where we'd just won this deal... about $8k I recall.. in the 90's... and then there were the Oysters couriered up from Bluff on the first day of the season...

    So when I joined the Public Service I declined to have a card with my employers name on it. And they said:

    "you have to. Because you might collect some reward points, and that is naughty and we'd have to give you a public spanking".

    So I said I promised I'd never do such a dreadful thing. And have used my own card ever since. I am constantly baffled by anyone who would carry such a hand-grenade around in their wallet...

    do you really think the responsible official would've looked through the bill, said "This, this, this, clearly OK, we'll pay them, that and that, a bit sus, need querying, and that is obviously outside the rules and we're not going to pay it

    Actually, that's exactly what happens to me. I have the Spanish inquisition over every claim. In fact, I've stopped using my card wherever possible. This costs the taxpayer a significant amount of money (I get formal purchase orders raised, we buy from 'approved' [aka overpriced] suppliers) I estimate it adds about $100 per transaction to the cost. But I can't assume an understanding public.

    Such is the price of integrity.

    Since Nov 2006 • 290 posts Report Reply

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