The Dom Post reports:
Labour leader Phil Goff will cut back his use of chauffeur-driven Crown cars in favour of much cheaper taxis after he ran up a $70,000 bill in three months.
But he is questioning the cost of the ministerial BMW limousines.
Mr Goff, who as Opposition leader has the use of the cars, said he would write to Prime Minister John Key and Internal Affairs, which runs the VIP Transport Service, challenging the service’s fees, which rose significantly last year.
The latest publication of MPs’ expenses shows Mr Goff spent $69,657 for the cars in the last three months of last year, although almost all of it was incurred in July, August and September. It showed up in the returns for the last quarter of 2009 because of a delay in Internal Affairs billing the Parliamentary Service, which pays MPs’ travel and accommodation expenses.
Having access to VIP Transport is a bit of a mixed blessing with these expense disclosures.
Ministers (and others like Phil Goff) get charged a per hour rate of $90 and a per km rate of $1.25 by VIP Transport, as a book-keeping exercise. The charge covers the capital costs of the fleet of cars and score of drivers.
Now the actual marginal cost of using VIP Transport is very small – almost just petrol. It would cost the taxpayer more if a Minister takes a taxi (which results in an external charge) than using VIP Transport (where the driver is on full salary regardless of whether or not they are driving at that moment in time).
If a Minister (or other person entitled) said they will never ever use VIP Transport, then they would be able to reduce their fleet size and number of drivers. But just using taxis some of the time will reduce the cost apportioned to a Minister internally, but probably not reduce the overall cost to the taxpayer.
It is a bit unfair on Phil Goff that he gets shown to have such a large expense against his name. For the reality is that his use of VIP Transport doesn’t really cost the taxpayer the amount shown. Most of those costs would be incurred regardless of how frequently he uses them, as their costs are mainly fixed, rather than marginal.Tags: MPs expenses, Phil Goff, VIP Transport