To say NZ First’s latest explanation fails the Tui test, is putting it mildy. Before we totally dismiss it out of hand, let us look at what they say:
The New Zealand First Party has admited they made a mistake by not declaring a donation they recieved from Sir Robert Jones.
The party is putting the non declaration down to an administrative error which happened at a time when they say there was an extensive changeover in administrative staff, who were new to their responsibilities.
They say the $25,000 donation was correctly banked into the New Zealand First account, along with other donations which were unfortunately overlooked when it came to declaring anything over $10,000.
The latest revelation comes after the Serious Fraud Office obtained Spencer Trust records.
The letter from auditor Nick Kosoof says New Zealand First made an administrative error by not declaring the money.
It says the amount was banked into the party’s bank account in September 2005, and unfortunately went overlooked by error, along with other donations.
This fails the credibility test on so many levels, it is not funny.
- The TV3 item on the Spencer Trust showed a payment of $50,000 not $25,000 paid to NZ First.
- NZ First has never ever declared a single donation from the Spencer Trust, so are we to believe that in three years of existence it has only received and passed onto NZ First a singular donation from Bob Jones?
- NZ First claim to have only had a couple of donations over $10,000 in the last decade, so how one could overlook your largest ever donation since 1996 is beyond belief.
- Since the Jones donation was exposed a couple of months ago there has been speculation that the NZ First 2005 return may be inaccurate. Why did no one in NZ First check until today?
- Why is the auditor, not the accountant, explaining the error? Are they the same person as suggested in the NZPA report?
There is a constant pattern here with NZ First – deny the donation until it is no longer credible to deny it, and then suddenly discover it somewhere. They do not deserve any benefit of the doubt. Thank God the SFO is investigating.
Even though they can not be prosecuted under the Electoral Act for the breach, it doesn’t mean that the SFO shouldn’t disclose how many other donations were illegally not declared to the Electoral Commission.
This also poses a challenge for Helen Clark. She has said she will act if there is evidence of illegal behaviour. We now have an admission from NZ First that it broke the Electoral Act 2003 in April 2006 (and maybe again since then). And filing a false donations return is not a minor or technical breach – it is incredibly serious.