$140,000 on TVNZ CEO credit card as redundancies pile up

Jonathan Marshall at the SST reports:

boss has racked up more than $140,000 on his company plastic – including $32,000 entertaining – during a time of major redundancies at the broadcaster, a Sunday Star-Times survey of more than 100 public-sector chief executives has revealed.

I’ve not been jumping on the bandwagon for most of these disclosures, as they seem reasonable. But hell $140,000 is a lot of money – even over two years.

Ellis’ liberal spending over the 24 months to June this year coincided with a period of plunging profits and savage job cuts at the state-owned enterprise, which has been hit hard by the global financial crisis.

TVNZ’s 2009 annual profit was 89 percent down on the previous year. Some 215 TVNZ staffers have lost their jobs since 2007. Between June 2008 and June 2010, Ellis, who earns between $710,000 and $840,000 yearly, spent $140,768.19 on his TVNZ-issued credit card.

The expenditure may be legit, but that does not mean it was prudent. I am glad to see the Minister asking the Chairman for a please explain.

But assessing just how Ellis spent $140,000 of TVNZ’s money was difficult. Citing commercial sensitivity, the broadcaster refused to hand over anything more than a grand total, broken down into broad categories. This included $11,765.52 on “miscellaneous” items. The broadcaster last night refused to say what they were. The ombudsman is investigating.

TVNZ spokeswoman Megan Richards said TVNZ would release only limited details of Ellis’s expenditure because “we are a commercial operation in a highly competitive, not to say cut-throat global industry. The kind of detail government departments may care to release is damaging to our competitive position.”

Richards said it was unfair for TVNZ to release its data when bosses of private companies Fairfax, APN, MediaWorks and Sky were not forced to.

But Maori TV CEO Jim Mather, also a state-owned enterprise boss, happily provided his credit card statements and receipts. Mather spent $19,632.53 in the same 24-month period.

I may be wrong, but I suspect the privately owned MediaWorks will have a massively smaller bill on their CEO’s credit card.

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