I am amazed at how many journalists get this wrong. Today Martin Kay in the Dom Post says:
Spending on parliamentary travel and accommodation is not subject to the Official Information Act, and MPs had until now resisted calls to provide details.
Though they broke new ground with yesterday’s release, they are steadfastly refusing to make public how they use annual allowances of at least $14,800 each for out-of-pocket expenses.
This makes it sounds like the information is there to be released – it is not. It is rather silly to keep demanding that something be released which does not exist.
As I have previously blogged the Remuneration Authority gives MPs an allowance of $14,800 a year to cover all their incidental work related expenses. A lot of these are meals away from home. This allowance is paid alongside the salary fortnightly. It is based on what the IRD and the Authority have previously determined is the average level of work related expenses. It is the equivalent of a per diem.
The Parliamentary Service does not have a record of individual expenses related to the allowance. That is because it is an allowance, not an expense claim. The MPs themselves do not have this info. They don’t spend half an hour a day writing down the details of every cup of coffee they had, or raffle ticket they purchased etc.
There is no info to be released. So would the media please stop calling for it. It’s inane. They could call for the system to revert back from an allowance system to a claim system but personally that would be a retrograde step as it would encourage MPs to max out their claims as they did in the UK. An allowance based on historical average data is in my opinion a far better system.