Wellington, June 9 NZPA - The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is being accused of squandering money on refurbishments during the recession when the Government was crying poor and urging people to tighten their belts.
Labour's state services spokesman, Grant Robertson, says the ministry spent $10 million on contractors over the past year, including $98,000 to upgrade a swimming pool at its high commission in Tonga.
Mr Robertson's documents, obtained under the Official Information Act, also show it cost $1.8 million to refurbish the embassy in Brussels, $459,000 on chillers at the embassy in Saudi Arabia, $44,000 to tile the diplomatic residence in Vanuatu and $74,000 to upgrade toilets on two levels of its Wellington head office.
"The question Foreign Minister Murray McCully has to answer is whether or not this was priority spending during a recession," Mr Robertson said on TV3 News.
"Other departments, education, health and housing, had cuts in their spending."
Mr McCully referred questions to the ministry.
Secretary John Allen said that with a large property portfolio and representation over many countries it was important to maintain an active repairs and maintenance programme.