The Electoral Commission has done three things in response to NZ First’s 2007 donations return:
- It has found the party secretary did not break the law with the 2007 donations return, but is not releasing the full decision as it may compromise the police investigation. They EC point out carefully “The determination is in respect of the actions of the Party Secretary for New Zealand First only, as considered under Part 6 of the Electoral Act.” This suggests that others are under investigation by the Police.
- It has published amended returns for 2007 showing $80,000 of donations from the Spencer Trust. At this stage amended returns for 2005 and 2006 have not been published or possibly even received.
- It has published a letter from the NZ First Auditor, Nick Kosoof.
No (1) is not a big surprise. The party administrators tended to be kept ignorant of the Spencer Trust. Both the Party President and the Party Deputy Leader have said they were unaware the Spencer Trust even existed. So I guess the Party Secretary was also unaware of it.
The letter from Kosoof is interesting. He says:
We were advised that the sums totally $80,000 paid to the Spencer Trust were paid not for the credit of that trust but for the credit of the NZ First Party, and were received by the Spencer Trust as an agent for the NZ First Party. As each of the component parts of that sum were from different entities and each was $10,000 or under, they did not require to be returned under the Electoral Act 1993.
This raises many questions:
- Who advised Kosoof of this?
- Did he have access to the Spencer Trust accounts to verify that each component part was under $10,000?
- Did he seek any legal advice on the situation or just take the word of the organisation he audits?
I wonder if NZ First wll file amended returns for 2005 and 2006? I suspect they may choose not to, even though they have acknowledged the 2005 return was false. The EC doesn’t actually have the power to force them to do this.