MSD must explain

Stuff reports:

NZ First leader Winston Peters won’t reveal how much he had to pay back due to a overpayment because it’s a “private matter”.

An MP being overpaid an entitlement is not a private matter.

Peters, the champion of superannuation, started collecting the pension in 2010 and was contacted by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) in July this year to say he had been receiving too much.

Peters said the overpayment likely started in about 2013/14 because up until that point he was completing annual returns and says the mistake would have been picked up by Inland Revenue.

MSD need to explain how they made this mistake.

Did their computer system fail?

Did their staff enter in the wrong details?

Was this an error that could have affected other pensioners?

The public need to be reassured that this error which occured with Mr Peters isn’t systemic.

This of course assumes that the error was with MSD, and not with Mr Peters. It is unthinkable that the error would be on his part, such as incorrect information being supplied. That would be such a serious matter, I am sure it can be ruled out.

UPDATE: According to Newsroom the error was not with MSD, but with Me Peters. They report:

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters took higher superannuation payments than he was entitled to for seven years – while living with his de facto partner – and has been required to pay back $18,000 to the state.

Peters filled out forms when he turned 65 that qualified him for the single person’s superannuation rate, which is about $60 a week higher in this case than a person would receive if declared to be living with a partner, which he was.

If this is correct, this is very serious. It could be deemed welfare fraud. Now Peters, unlike Turei, promptly paid it back. But if this report is correct, then Peters needs to explain how this happened.

Also surely Peters of all people would know what the single and partner rates of NZ Super are.

Peters and partner Jan Trotman live together in a dress circle, $2.65 million St Mary’s Bay home. Her application, on turning 65, for superannuation is said to have brought the discrepancy to the Ministry of Social Development’s attention. Newsroom understands Trotman had to say if she was single, married or in a de facto relationship. The information was cross-referenced and Peters’ lack of entitlement to the sum he was receiving was discovered.

So did Trotman say she was de facto or did she also say she was single, and it was the common address that alerted MSD? Again this is information needed so conclusions can be reached on whether this was accidential, or not.

It is expected Peters will be pressured to waive his privacy rights and ask the Ministry to release the details of his application, the overpayments, and the correspondence that ensued once the issue was raised.

If Perers refuses to do this, the question will be why?

In 2008, Peters and his party were ejected from Parliament by voters after he denied receiving funds from millionaire Owen Glenn but was chastised by Parliament’s Privileges Committee which heard evidence directly contradictory to Peters’ infamous “No” sign that he held up at a press conference.

A reminder of why proof is needed about who this happened, not just Peters’ assertion it was an administratrive error.

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