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Minister's credit card details to continue to be public

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Maggie Tait of NZPA

Wellington, June 14 NZPA - Ministers and their staff's credit card records will continue to be released for public scrutiny, Prime Minister John Key said today.

Last Thursday credit card records for this and much of the last government were released. Some MPs were caught out breaking the rules and Labour MPs Chris Carter, Shane Jones and Mita Ririnui have been demoted and had spokesman roles stripped from them.

Mr Key said he wanted the credit card records to be released quarterly, along with the travel costs that already have been provided under his Government, possibly being posted on a website for all to see.

"I am sure the result of this public scrutiny will be that ministers will be even more careful with expenditure of their staff's credit cards in the future," he told reporters.

His office asked Ministerial Services, which administers the spending, to report back on regular vetting.

However, he was not looking at opening up Parliamentary Service funding (for MPs rather than ministers' spending) the same way.

Mr Key said the system of MPs having an allowance of about $14,000 to spend at their discretion worked well and he did not want that changed to a claim regime. Apart from that, money went to the leader's fund and Mr Key said making that political spending public would not work.

He said, for example, payment for research could give away early advice a party was seeking.

"I am comfortable at the moment that we have a fairly high level of disclosure."

The leader's fund was controversially used by Labour to pay for its pledge card election ads. Mr Key said that level of spending inevitably ended up being made public.

"Ultimately if there is large expenditure then where that money's come from is fairly obvious and political parties are accountable for that."

Mr Key said his ministers had been responsible in their spending and while there had been some criticism it had been within the rules.

Auditor-General Lyn Provost is looking at the rules at Mr Key's request following her earlier report into misspending by Cabinet Minister Phil Heatley.

She found while he spent $1402 of taxpayers' money wrongly he did not intentionally break the rules.

Mr Key said he did not know why the misspending on credit cards was not picked up earlier by the Auditor-General's office but said he could see it had been difficult for Ministerial Services to administer given the power imbalance they faced when dealing with ministers.

He felt continued public releases of the information would resolve that.

"At the end of the day opening up this regime to transparency will fix that problem."

Mr Key said he used his personal credit card for expenses while overseas.

He has reminded Cabinet Ministers that they face public scrutiny for their spending.

Mr Key said he wanted his MPs to focus on the issues rather than spend time in Parliament's debating chamber attacking Mr Jones.

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