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Ministerial staff immune from recession

30 April 2009 Media Statement
Ministerial staff numbers and salaries immune from recession

National Ministers are continuing to pump up staff levels and salaries in their private offices with Government departments picking up the bill , Labour Party Internal Affairs spokesperson Chris Hipkins says.

“Prime Minister John Key and his Finance Minister Bill English need to front up and explain to taxpayers why significant sums of money are being paid to an elite group of ‘private purchase advisors’ in ministerial offices,” Chris Hipkins said

“Earlier this year the National Government claimed that despite doubling the number of ministerial staffers earning more than $100,000 they were actually reducing the wage bill in the Beehive

“Now it appears that all they have done is find a backdoor way to make taxpayers fund politically-sympathetic advisors to carry out work for National Government Ministers.”

Mr Hipkins released information he has obtained through written parliamentary questions and the Official Information Act which shows that Bill English wrote to ministers in February instructing them to engage private purchase advisors.

“This comes at a time when the Government is telling New Zealanders to tighten their belts in the face of a worsening recession and is sacking hardworking public servants. Taxpayers will want to know why when it comes to staffing their own private offices they are immune to this call.

“According to Mr English’s letter, this small group of private advisors will be paid for by government departments, will not be answerable to the chief executives from whose budget they will be paid, and will not be subject to the usual ethical standards of political neutrality that all other public servants are required to meet.

“So much for the National Party’s pre-election rhetoric about de-politicising the public service, they will be paid for by the taxpayer and yet they will be answerable only to the minister. How much more political can you get?

“Earlier in the year, when it was revealed the new National administration had significantly hiked up pay rates for their political advisors and press secretaries, John Key’s claimed the government was opting for quality over quantity. Now we know that was all smoke and mirrors. They’ve just found another way to pay for staff in their private ministerial offices.

“It’s time for the Ministers to front up and explain themselves,” Chris Hipkins said.

Purchase Advisors – Table With Details (xls)

ENDS

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