Shame and $474.12 – the price to remain an MP
By Pattrick Smellie
Dec. 3 (BusinessDesk) – Disgraced former Cabinet Minister Pansy Wong will refund a total of $474.12 to the taxpayer for money spent on a side-trip from official business in China in which Wong’s husband, Sammy, engaged in private commercial activity.
While MPs have travel rights, including spousal travel, these cannot be used for private commercial gain, under Parliamentary Service Commission rules.
Wong was stripped of her Women’s, Ethnic Affairs and various associate ministries after first reports of the travel.
In a statement on the release of an inquiry into the unauthorised travel, Wong said the report had found “evidence that a trip to Lianyungang, China, in December 2008 involved activity that, although unplanned and inadvertent, could be construed as private business purposes.”
“I apologise, and I will refund the level of rebate attributable to the section of the trip, which amounts to $237.06 each for my husband and myself,” Wong said. “The experience of the past three weeks is not something that I would want to repeat.”
The inquiry found “no evidence of systemic abuse” of the travel perks by Wong or her husband.
Wong apologised and thanked Prime Minister John Key for giving her leave from Parliament while the inquiry was conducted.
She hoped to return to Cabinet, but understood such promotion “has to be earned.”