Maggie Tait at NZPA reports:
The Internal Affairs Department is responsible for a decision to provide the Government with brand new BMWs when the old ones were only three years-old, Prime Minister John Key says.
My first response to reading this is that sure DIA made the decision, but they must have got sign off from at least their Minister – or at least notified him. So I thought this was just trying to avoid blame.
Mr Key said a six-year deal for the cars was signed by Labour with a three-year rollover clause.
“That decision to invoke that rollover and bring new cars in was made by the Department of Internal Affairs without reference either to their minister or to me,” he told reporters.
However reading on, the PM says that the decision was made without reference to the Minister or PM at all. That indicates that not only did they not approve of it, they were not even told of it.
If this is the case, then DIA should get a bit of a bollocking for this. Departments are meant to operate a no surprises policy with Ministers, and 34 new BMWs should definitely qualify as meeting the threshold for no surprises.
Mr Key found out about the new cars when one of the drivers told him.
That is not the way the Minister for Ministerial Services should find out.
“It’s not a situation where we as the Government have decided to do that, the department just made that decision.”
The department did not think it had to check as it had authority from the former Labour Government.
The Department was wrong. They should have checked.
Earlier, Finance Minister Bill English was critical of Labour’s original contract and Green Party criticism of the Government spending in tight financial times.
“It’s a bit rich from the Greens because one of the reasons the Labour Government bought the BMWs was because they were meant to reduce carbon emissions, they were meant to be the most fuel efficient cars even though their capital cost might have been higher than other options,” he told Radio New Zealand.
“I think it does show that being driven by a fad, which at the time was to have lower carbon emissions, means that you can make decisions — which were made by the previous Government — turn out more expensive than they expected.”
Mr English said when the contract came up for renewal the Government would see if there was a better deal and probably a “more mainstream model of car”.
“I don’t think a Government in the current recession would decide to pick a luxury brand car with all those extra bits…whatever the value for money.”
If no Minister was even informed of the new BMWs, then blaming them is a bit unfair. But the damage has probably already been done in terms of perceptions.
I still think DIA should be given a bollocking for not having the common sense to check with the current Government whether they wanted brand new BMWs to be turning up a few months befiore the election.