The Dom Post reports:
At least one Government minister has been forced to pay back expenses wrongly billed to his taxpayer-funded credit card and others are scrambling to check their spending.
Housing Minister Phil Heatley will repay Ministerial Services today for the $70 cost of two bottles of wine that he bought for National Party members at AMI Stadium in Christchurch last year and billed to his ministerial credit card.
An embarrassed Mr Heatley admitted, after checking with officials following questions raised by The Dominion Post, that he should never have paid for the wine with his ministerial card.
It suggests officials have been rubberstamping ministerial expenses.
The wine purchase was one of hundreds of transactions by ministers revealed by the release of credit card details in response to an Official Information Act request.
Mr Heatley has also run foul of the rules for running up expenses on his card and later reimbursing Ministerial Services – a practice he acknowledged was against the rules, though he was not aware of that till yesterday.
This is basically unacceptable, no ifs, no buts.
The rules about credit card use are set out in the Ministerial Services handbook. Now yes it is a huge document, but one new Ministers should read upon taking office – and as importantly, one their senior office staff should be aware of.
A Ministerial credit card should be used very sparingly in New Zealand. It is generally on overseas trips that they are needed.
It is a concern that Ministerial Services did not query some of the purchases at time of processing. We’ve seen in the UK what can happen when there is no push back from the authorities on expenses.
I suspect it may have already happened, but the PM needs to remind all Ministers of the need to be like Caesar’s wife when it comes to credit cards and expenses. Otherwise they may share the fate of Pompeia!