Not pricey

April 12th, 2011 at 9:11 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

boss John Whitehead took World Bank and International Monetary Fund officials out for pricey dinners just a few months after State Service Commissioner Iain Rennie warned top public servants against doing just that.

Dr Whitehead’s credit card expenses were published this week and show that last month he spent $292 on dinner for three at Wellington waterfront eatery Foxglove with World Bank executive director Jim Hagan.

I’m sorry but this is almost embarrassing. I’m all for responsible use of credit cards, but running a story about spending $95/head at dinner entertaining the Executive Director of the World Bank is ridicolous.

Foxglove is a medium priced restaurant. Far from the most expensive. Should we take the World Bank Executive Director to Uncle Chang’s instead?

Or alternatively have him out for dinner, and then when you get to desserts, tell him “I’m sorry but NZ is so poor, we can’t pay for dessert”.

$95 doesn’t mean there were bottles of expensive wine drunk. $20 for an entree, $40 for a man and $15 for a dessert is $75 so  arguably they had one bottle of $60 wine. I doubt the World Bank executive Dinner is going to regale colleagues in Washington about the awesome night out in Wellington – yeah we had five courses, two bottles of port plus a couple of strippers – all for $95 – it was better than Vegas.

It is good to have scrutiny of public sector spending. In fact I support having all Government payments listed online. But I don’t regard $95/head for the Executive Director of the World Bank as inappropriate or even newsworthy.

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53 Responses to “Not pricey”

  1. kaya (1,360 comments) says:

    The Herald obviously didn’t sell enough advertising space for today and this was the best filler they could come up with.

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  2. bhudson (4,736 comments) says:

    It beggars belief that editorial staff allow nonsense like that to make it to print.

    So much for Maggie, Magic Bullet, Penny and co believing that the media have a right-wing bias

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  3. dime (9,806 comments) says:

    what a stupid article. Maybe $90 a head is expensive to this hack.

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  4. Bobbie black (507 comments) says:

    Just another example of why The Herald should be euthanized.

    Scraping the bottom of the barrel to get a “newsworthy” that is a controversial item.

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  5. david (2,571 comments) says:

    Thank you David for reminding me why I have not renewed my subscription to the Herald nor missed it since I cancelled the delivery 18 months ago.

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  6. Murray (8,844 comments) says:

    Can we seea breakdown of the reporters expense accoutn now?

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  7. alex Masterley (1,507 comments) says:

    My first reaction was that the bill was cheap and Mr Whitehead was being a tightarse.

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  8. Put it away (2,888 comments) says:

    This is the kinda of article makes me think “if this is the worst you can find, then then there’s obviously nothing bad going on”.

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  9. JeffW (325 comments) says:

    When I was a lot younger, jouranlism was about the news; today it is about any sort of muckraking which can sell advertising. The news used to be the main purpose, with advertising the support. Now, advertising is the main purpose with news the support. A job versus a vocation.

    I cut the Herald down from 6 days to 1, and I wonder why I bother with the one day. I wish more people more cut their subsrciption, might be the only way to achieve change.

    bhudson @9:19, NZ MSM is so left wing, but part of classic agit-prop is for the left to say it is right wing.

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  10. KiwiGreg (3,247 comments) says:

    “$20 for an entree, $40 for a man ”

    Was Darren Hughes dining as well?

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  11. BeaB (2,105 comments) says:

    I don’t like public servants entertaining each other on our dollar but of course we have to offer decent hospitality to visiting VIPs – and we should be showing off the best of NZ cuisine and wine.

    Does the Herald really think we should behave like a lot of ignorant peasants? This is such crap.

    Especially in the light of the lavish entertainment the IRB demands.

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  12. TripeWryter (715 comments) says:

    This is as inane as the ‘story’ on Sunday about the Governor-General’s ‘spending’ and the ‘demand for an inquiry’.

    Turns out it was the annual budget for running the governor-generalship ($3.5m, salaries and expenses). Christ, that’s cheap, and I guess would be about the same — or would it? — if we had a home-grown, not vice-regal, Head of State that the resentful, snivelling republicans seem to want.

    And then we find that the ‘demand for an inquiry’ was by none other than the republican Lewis Holden.

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  13. david (2,571 comments) says:

    HEH BeaB, but you won’t find the Herald’s sports reporters declaring when writing RWC items this year “Joe Blogs rporting as NZPA was hosted this week to dinner by the ARU, drinks by NZRU, cocktails by IRB several beers by TVNZ and was given free ground entry to matches courtesy of NZRWC Ltd”

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  14. peterwn (3,239 comments) says:

    ‘Starfish’ fish and chips shop in Molesworth Street is highly regarded. They could send out for some and eat them round the Cabinet table. A meal at the ‘Backbencher’ is another option especially if the Treasury Secretary is a ‘all MP’s are bastards’ sort (with apologies to the former Wellington City Council ‘Rabbits’ club).

    More seriously, this is just plain ridiculous, like the media ‘beat-up’ about extra features on three of the CR limos that are used for long distance travel. Show me any journo who works 18/7 and is in the public gaze much of the time.

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  15. Short Shriveled and Slightly to the Left (793 comments) says:

    “…$20 for an entree, $40 for a man and $15 for a dessert…. ”
    So the $40 doesn’t cover the sex?

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  16. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    “$20 for an entree, $40 for a man ”

    Was Darren Hughes dining as well?

    Bastard! Beat me to it! :-)

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  17. Mark (1,471 comments) says:

    This is the lazy and pathetic journalism and one wonders what the editor of the NZ herald was thinking (if at all). Is the herald so bereft of news worthy of publishing that it stoops to this sort of garbage

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  18. gravedodger (1,545 comments) says:

    I guess if a drive by at the well known Scottish family restaurant is ones idea of taking someone out “for dinner” then $90 a head would look very extravagant, tosser.

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  19. ton (36 comments) says:

    Uncle Chang is not going to be happy with you David.

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  20. wreck1080 (3,866 comments) says:

    boring story alright.

    Typical kiwi journalism.

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  21. Fisiani (1,025 comments) says:

    Newspapers are for news. This is not news. Newspapers are for news. This is not news. Repeat ad nauseam till the Herald gets it.

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  22. lofty (1,310 comments) says:

    Utter space filling drivel, they should be ashamed of themselves, just drives home the obvious, newspapers are becoming irrelevant.

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  23. slightlyrighty (2,508 comments) says:

    $292, to dine 2 IMF and World Bank officials?

    And the herald thinks that too much?

    Oh for fucks sake. How wet could you possibly get.

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  24. david (2,571 comments) says:

    BTW when is the MSM going to try and defend itself or respond to these accusations of peddling mindless drivel that is mostly devoid of journalistic content or acceptable grammar?

    Who are the “faceless editors” who insist on trying to dumb down the population by printing crap that is intellectually barren and in the process is destroying the population’s respect for the printed word and the dissemination of considered analysis and what are their personal philosophies?

    We go on about needing to know what personal beliefs influence the thinking of our politicians but mostly we know nothing of the perpetrators of trash that pose as daily newspapers.

    If they bear any resemblance to Wendyl Nissan (to pick one example) then we should get worried about why they stay in the shadows.

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  25. Chthoniid (2,031 comments) says:

    @alex Masterley

    My first reaction was that the bill was cheap and Mr Whitehead was being a tightarse.

    lol- that was my first thought too.

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  26. adam2314 (377 comments) says:

    $40 a man !!. Is that the going rate in Wellington ?. Or a Freudian slip.

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  27. publicwatchdog (2,516 comments) says:

    Interesting that we can get screeds of info on public monies spent on expense accounts (in my view – pretty trivial stuff), but we can’t get the ‘devilish’ detail about the billion$ being spent at local and central government level on the ‘contractocracy’?

    The names of the contractors; the scope, term and value of the contracts?

    Just how truly ‘open’ are our local and central government ‘books’?

    Where is the transparency, in NZ ‘perceived’ to be the least corrupt country in the world – when ratepayers and taxpayers are NOT being told exactly where our public monies are being spent?

    Penny Bright
    http://waterpressure.wordpress.com

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  28. RichardX (326 comments) says:

    Penny Bright – Whaleoil has been calling for an open register for all tenders and contracts for some time.

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  29. Monty (974 comments) says:

    The last time my wife and I went out (about 6 weeks ago) I think the meal and wine for two of us was about $400.

    And a bargain at that price.

    Pussys.

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  30. Batman (103 comments) says:

    WHAT?? HE TOOK THEM TO FOXGLOVE?!?!?

    Oh dear lord, what will they think of us?? that place has awful food and even worse service! they would have been much better off moving 25 metres down the wharf to either Shed 5 or Dockside. at least then they would have been sampling QUALITY New Zealand produce and wine.

    Also, the Granny Herald strikes again! what a waste of paper, ink, and megabytes!

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  31. georgebolwing (768 comments) says:

    The problem with a full “open register” of tenders and contracts is that if you go into too much detail, like the prices in competitive contracts, many suppliers will just not bid: there is no way that firms will disclose their pricing to their competitors.

    And it will be we as taxpayers that will suffer, since if you are the lowest bidder and you realise that you could have got the contract at a higher price, next time you will bid higher.

    The gets.govt.nz approach of post-tender inquiry with an indication of the total cost is probably a good balance:
    http://www.gets.govt.nz/Default.aspx?show=AwardedList&returnTo=home

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  32. Chris2 (772 comments) says:

    These are trivial sums for the the head of Treasury to be harangued for.

    I’m still surprised that the media have not picked up the SIS head’s entertainment/dining expenses return – $1,000 a week for the last 12 months. It was on the GSCB website for a few weeks, then mysteriously removed.

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  33. john.bt (170 comments) says:

    The Ministry of Education would have spent heaps more than that today holding a meeting at the Backbencher. So why is it that government departments have meetings at pubs ? Don’t they have conference rooms in their buildings ?

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  34. OTGO (538 comments) says:

    They publish crap like that and their readership has never been better http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10706283
    Go figure!

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  35. publicwatchdog (2,516 comments) says:

    # RichardX (43) Says:
    April 12th, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Penny Bright – Whaleoil has been calling for an open register for all tenders and contracts for some time.”

    I refused to pay Auckland City Council rates back in 2008 because the CEO wouldn’t give this detail, got taken to Court – lost – then petitioned Parliament – tried to get an amendment to the Local Government Act 2002… that’s quite a detailed story…

    Good to see Cameron is up with the play and advocating for more transparency at local and central government level.

    We also need, in my considered opinion as an anti-corruption campaigner, an enforceable ‘Code of Conduct’ for both local and central government elected reps; a mandatory ‘Register ofPecuniary Interests’ for Councillors; a mandatory ‘Register of Interests’ for all those who are responsible for property and procurement.

    Why on earth NZ – ‘perceived’ to be the least corrupt country in the world’ – thus arguably the ‘most transparent’ – doesn’t already have such an anti-corruption framework in place, is truly quite beyond me.

    Penny Bright
    http://waterpressurre.wordpress.com

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  36. williamsheridan (63 comments) says:

    I wonder if this part of the story is worth more debate:

    “Dr Whitehead is to leave Treasury at the end of May, after the Budget, to take up a two-year post as an executive director of the World Bank”

    …. so he took his future emplyer out to dinner on the taxpayer? A little unwise, perhaps?

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  37. immigant (950 comments) says:

    The only reason that stories like that get published is because most Kiwis are inherently a very jealous bunch.
    It generates discourse at a level of -“Look at those rich pricks spending more on one meal then I do for the whole week.”
    This in turn sells the paper or what ever boulevard rag is trying to pass this article as something of any relevance or interest.

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  38. georgebolwing (768 comments) says:

    If you read closely, you will see that Mr Whitehead (he doesn’t have a doctorate) took the person he is replacing at the WB out to dinner. Seems to me to be a prudent thing to do.

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  39. Thomas the Unbeliever (141 comments) says:

    williamsheridan @ 4:14pm “…. so he took his future emplyer out to dinner on the taxpayer? A little unwise, perhaps?”

    Well spotted. The Herald was right. Blatant corruption …. masquerading as a modest dinner out on the corporate card. So subtle I almost missed it.

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  40. immigant (950 comments) says:

    Corruption is getting immigrants to renovate your house for free while promising that you will help them get visas. That’s corruption.

    This is just some good stakeholder relations.

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  41. calendar girl (1,214 comments) says:

    The way the NZ economy is struggling, senior public servants reinforcing friendships in high places at the IMF and the World Bank may prove to be a very sensible course of action. I hope Whitehead and his colleagues do more of it. Would that Greece, Ireland and Greece could have curried favour so inexpensively before those countries had to grovel for international bailouts.

    Meanwhile, here’s a real investigative story for the sleuths at the Dreadful Herald to latch onto. What has Winston Peters done with $158,000 of taxpayers’ money that he claims to have donated to undeclared “charities” and has declined to pay back to Parliamentary Services? Therein may lie a genuine scandal worthy of breathless disclosure.

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  42. magic bullet (776 comments) says:

    ” Therein may lie a genuine scandal worthy of breathless disclosure”

    Lots of these international banker types are reputed to be members of dodgy old boys clubs/secret societies – i wonder if anyone has ever ask John Key weather he has ever belonged to one? I’m only asking because i think it’s a matter of genuine public interest.

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  43. Manolo (13,517 comments) says:

    Lots of these international banker types are reputed to be members of dodgy old boys clubs/secret societies – i wonder if anyone has ever ask John Key weather he has ever belonged to one?

    Do I need further proof comrade magic mushroom bullet wears a tin foil hat even at this time of the evening?
    Clearly, a madhouse must be missing a patient.

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  44. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    It would probably help MB if you actually could give us a name of these so called old boys clubs/ secret societies or are you just attention whoring because you have nothing worth adding again?

    You are right on one point however , which for you is as rare as rocking horse shit – It is a matter of public interest to know what a international banker type looks like .!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!FFS

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  45. magic bullet (776 comments) says:

    Why is that do you say that Manolo? Are you an authority on international bankers and their membership to weird occult clubs?

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  46. Christopher Thomson (376 comments) says:

    That’s easy, just look for the tail, hooves, horns and a trident.

    Deinstitutionalisation has to lot to answer for.

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  47. nasska (11,147 comments) says:

    Perhaps to keep within the austerity policies of the Treasury, IMF officials could be asked to bring a cut lunch to the next meeting.

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  48. immigant (950 comments) says:

    Pauleastbay

    First rule of Fight Club – Don’t talk about Fight Club. They are secret societies so you can’t name names… duhhh

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  49. bhudson (4,736 comments) says:

    “international bankers and their membership to weird occult clubs…”

    Perhaps MB is trying to raise the spectre of the Thule society again.

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  50. Nookin (3,266 comments) says:

    In case anyone is interested, this what Iain Rennie actually said.

    “The second principle is that hospitality and entertainment put on departmental credit cards should only ever be moderate. Public servants must use their judgement to ensure that expenditure is appropriate and fit for purpose.

    Of the total amount incurred by chief executives over this period, approximately 23 percent in 2008/09 and 22 percent in 2009/10 was related to hospitality and entertainment. In many cases this is justified; where, for example, a chief executive is extending hospitality to members of a delegation from another jurisdiction.

    However, some expenditure – particularly on food and alcohol for staff – appears to be excessive.

    While I encourage chief executives to recognize and reward good performance in their agencies, I do not think that using departmental credit cards in expensive restaurants is an appropriate way to encourage good performance or a culture of prudence with public funds.

    It is my expectation that chief executives will review their agency’s policies on expenditure on food and drink for staff functions and amend them to reflect this. I am publishing the State Services Commission’s policies to assist them with this.

    Another significant proportion of the total cost has been spent on international travel, approximately 36 percent in 2008/09 and 31 percent in 2009/10. Chief executives are expected to participate in these meetings with their colleagues from overseas jurisdictions, and there is significant benefit to New Zealand in them doing this. The principle is that all international travel is of demonstrable benefit to the agency, and therefore the taxpayer.

    My intention in publishing this information was to increase the levels of transparency around the use of public funds. By making this a regular quarterly publication, New Zealanders will have more visibility of the activities of chief executives and consequently more trust in their public services.”

    His main gripe was expenditure on staff booze and entertainment. I see nothing in the statement that suggests that Mr Whitehead did anything wrong. In fact Rennie singles out hosting an overseas delegation as a situation where some expenditure is appropriate. Did the Herald reporter actually read Rennie’s comments or do they just stand in the way of a good bitch?

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  51. bhudson (4,736 comments) says:

    Nookin,

    Perhaps the unfortunate truth gets in the way of the “Public services heads party up while employees and services are slashed” line the journo would like to peddle

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  52. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    Apologies Immigrant, upper cut duly delivered to myself.

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  53. magic bullet (776 comments) says:

    CT – there is a lot of Wishart type conspiracy bullshit out there. Anon confidential sources etc. Try following the money and thinking for yourselves for a change – it’s amazing the number of buried facts that are out there, forgotten by popular consciousness. To some people, they are verified matters of record. To the angry rabble at kiwiblog they are thought-crime.

    Just watch “The Money Masters”. Fact-check it all you like, and through the fact checking some interesting results should turn up to cause an epiphany or two. It’s amazing how such powerful institutions go so people are so uncritical of such powerful institutions. You really wonder how long it will be before fascisim is forgotten and returns to fashion.

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