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Ministerial credit card use

Ministerial credit card use

New Zealanders have the right to expect the highest standards of Ministerial behaviour, and the proper expenditure of their funds.

As a country, we have long had a reputation for good governance and honesty in the public sector.

We need to work to ensure that we maintain this reputation.

In any Government I lead, transparency will be important, not just when spending public money, but across everything we do.

The release of credit card details of past and present Ministers will help entrench high standards. I welcome this.

I also question whether it is necessary for Ministers to have credit cards, which has got a number of Ministers into trouble when they have been used for private expenditure, albeit later repaid.

The release of records going back over six years shows wrongful use of credit cards on a number of occasions. I am requiring Members of Parliament in my caucus to take personal responsibility for their actions.

I am going to hold Labour to account just as much as I hold the government to account.

Many infractions were minor; some were serious repeated misuse of a credit card. None are excusable.

I said before the release of the details that any public money spent outside the rules must be reimbursed. That remains the case.

However, I am also imposing sanctions on three MPs – not because the money has not been repaid, but on the basis of poor judgement.

Shane Jones repeatedly misused his ministerial credit card and this requires a clear sanction.

He will lose his front bench position and the two major portfolio responsibilities he holds.

It is a mitigating factor that he had already paid the money back and that he has accepted total responsibility for his actions.

The penalty imposed on him is severe but I want to send a strong message about the high standards I will demand of those who serve in the next Labour Government.

I believe Shane has a lot of potential to offer Labour and New Zealand in the future.

I believe he will learn from this experience.

But he will now have to prove that he is worthy of future consideration and the onus will be on him to earn his way back into a future Labour ministry.

Chris Carter also wrongly used his card on several occasions over six years as a Minister on things outside the rules for Ministerial expenditure. He has now repaid the money.

These items by themselves would not warrant removal from the Foreign Affairs portfolio. However there has been public controversy around the frequency and cost of Chris’ travel as a Minister accompanied by his partner which damages his ability to continue in this portfolio.

Chris has lost the portfolio and his front bench seat and will sit on the second bench. Given the importance he attached to his portfolio this will be a severe sanction for him.

I want to acknowledge that he is an exceptionally hard working Member of Parliament well regarded for what he has done in areas like Conservation and Ethnic Affairs.

Mita Ririnui wrongly used his Government credit card to purchase golf clubs and a bike. These are clearly personal items, involving significant expenditure and occurred on two occasions.

He did not do so with any dishonest intent and reimbursed Ministerial Services for that expenditure at the time.

However it was clearly outside the rules and he should have been aware of that and showed poor judgement.

As a result he will lose his shadow portfolio responsibilities for forestry.

Ultimately, it was clear what decision I needed to make in these cases.

I feel very strongly about honesty, integrity and care of public money because these are values fundamental to our political system.

New Zealanders need to know that they can trust their MPs. Setting and maintaining high standards of transparency and accountability are essential to this.

ENDS


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