More on Ministerial Accommodation

The Herald looks at the winners and losers, with Phil Heatley the biggest “loser” as his current accommodation costs almost $16,000 a year more than the new allowance.

The Dom Post queries Bill English’s arrangements again:

Finance Minister Bill English qualified for a $700-a-week rent payment from taxpayers after signing a declaration that he had no financial interest in the trust which owned his family home.

It has been revealed that officials took concerns to the prime minister’s office about whether Mr English qualified for the payment, which is double the amount he was entitled to as an ordinary MP.

But documents issued under the Official Information Act show they were told it would be okay as long as Mr English certified that he had no financial interest in the Endeavour Trust, which owns his $1.2 million Karori property.

My understanding is that Bill English is a trustee of the Endeavour Trust, but he is not a beneficiary.

The situation with trusts and parliamentary accommodation is not unique to English. Most Green Party MPs live in houses owned by their superannuation fund. This mean they can claim the full rental amount, rather than merely interest on the mortgage.

Having changed the Ministerial rules, I wonder if the parliamentary rules will also be reviewed.

And the Dom Post editorial does not like the new system:

His new regime for ministerial accommodation allowance fails because, while it is transparent, it is not independent. …

The public can have little faith in a review of a system by those who are its beneficiaries.

There should instead be an independent examination of ministerial, MPs’ and ex-MPs’ extensive array of allowances.

It should produce a comprehensive list of what should continue, and what should not, and what rules are needed to stop rorts.

Then the public could have a little more faith in what was decided. Asking ministers and MPs to set the rules smacks too much of asking the foxes to guard the henhouse.

This is not a bad suggestion and pretty much what was proposed in 2003 – hand it all over to a body such as the .

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