Sunday, April 09, 2006

Heads on spikes

Talk about irony. Last night I was talking with someone, who mentioned that unlike other governmnet Ministers, Chris Carter had managed not to screw up recently. This morning, I find out that Housing New Zealand Corporation, which Carter oversees in his role as Housing Minister, falsified its accounts to hide cost overruns, then paid a whistleblower hush money not to report it. While there's no suggestion of embezzlement, this certainly violates the Public Finance Act and all proper rules of government spending and oversight. It may also be fraud, but I'm wary about that as I'm not sure whether "getting your bonus" counts as a sufficient pecuniary advantage or benefit.

The Opposition will no doubt start braying for Carter to resign, but its difficult to see how he is responsible. There is little a Minister can do when the officials responsible to him lie outright and attempt to cover up their behaviour in order to circumvent proper standards of government accountability. All a Minister can do in this sort of case is ceremonially stick heads on spikes after the fact. And that is what I would hope to see happen over the next few days, once the Minister has had his "please explain" meeting on Monday.