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TVNZ Fesses Up To Expenses For The Wrong Year

TVNZ Fesses Up To Expenses For The Wrong Year

By Kevin List

Ian Fraser Is Back In Front Of The Cameras
Click Image For Photo Essay

MP's who had demanded the right to scrutinise TVNZ's credit card usage - relating mainly to the 2002-03 financial year - spent this morning quizzing TVNZ about expenses incurred during the 2003-04 year.

The top brass of TVNZ had been re-called to Parliament after failing to answer a variety of questions posed by the Commerce Committee during the 2002-03 financial review of TVNZ held at the beginning of this year.

During TVNZ's 'Financial review', TVNZ had been requested to provide

- A breakdown of where the $314,000 spent on credit cards by the TVNZ senior executive team for the 2002-03 financial year went and who spent that money

- The details relating to the Head of News and Current Affairs (Bill Ralston's) credit card usage since starting work (August 2003) till the time of the Financial review hearing (Early February)

- Paul Holmes and a number of other presenters clothing allowance

TVNZ supposedly returned ready to eat humble pie and provide the members with answers. But unfortunately the answers provided weren't answers to the questions raised earlier in the year.

That said, rather more worryingly, none of the MP's present seemed to notice. The man who had posed the original questions, Winston Peters was forced to sit out Mr Fraser's inquisition in the public gallery due to a recent fracas with the speaker, Jonathan Hunt.

On the subject of Paul Holmes clothing allowance the MP's were informed that Mr Holmes had a very special contract signed in 2001 that forbade any prying into his sartorial expenses.

This contract was a one off and Mr Fraser expressed some annoyance at the conclusion of today's briefing that such a contract could ever have been allowed. However the contract existed and the MP's would never now how many silk boxers, if any, Mr Holmes received courtesy of the taxpayers.

With regard to Bill Ralston's expenses, the committee did discover that the Head of News and Current Affairs, between July 2003 and June 2004, spent $21,751 on his TVNZ credit card. There was no way of knowing however, how much of that sum had been spent when the matter was first raised in public by the NBR (early 2004) and asked for by Mr Peters (February 2004).

There was also no way of discovering what individual members of the TVNZ senior executive team had spent on their respective credit cards in 2002-2003 as the most recent year – 2003-04 – was the only information provided.

When questioned regarding this matter by Scoop following the hearing TVNZ Head of Public Affairs, Avon Adams, seemed to believe that the year in question 2003-04 had been provided due to Mr Ralston's expenditure.

"I think the interpretation is by the organisation is that they were specifically asked for Bill's [Ralston] and that is why that year was given. I suppose if the committee wants those similar figures for that [2002-03] year we can find that."

National MP Katherine Rich found it helpful that TVNZ had furnished some figures finally.

"I think it was a step forward that TVNZ gave us that [the 2003-04 figures] because at the beginning they weren't going to hand over anything," she told Scoop.

However when looking at figures that showed the Head of Sales had managed to spend more than $60,000 on a company credit card, the Head of Marketing nearly $30,000 on their card and the Kaihautu just over 16,000 Ms Rich opined, "when you get figures like that, they beg further questions."


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