Tuesday, May 27, 2008

HNZ managers feathering their own nests

Just prior to the 1999 election, WINZ CEO Christine Rankin got into serious trouble after it was learned that her department had blown $165,000 on chartering aircraft in order to transport 140 managers to a conference at the exclusive Wairakei Resort Hotel. It was a prime example of the private sector's culture of extravagance and managers feathering their own nests invading the public sector, and ultimately one of the reasons why Rankin was subsequently dumped. But with Labour's election, that culture of extravagance was supposed to have ended.

Unfortunately, it seems that Housing New Zealand didn't get the memo:

National Party Housing spokesman Phil Heatley has revealed 94 Housing New Zealand managers spent two days at a conference at the luxury Tongariro Lodge.

"The total cost of the two-day staff meeting was just short of $70,000 and included $5,000 in miscellaneous expenses, and $12,000 in travel costs.

I don't deny that public sector organisations need to have these sorts of conferences, and unlike Rodney Hide I do not believe they should hold them in a cardboard box under the Auckland motorway with refreshments of bread and water. But neither do I think they should be holding them in luxury resorts which pride themselves on their exclusive, millionaire clientele. These may be the sorts of circles HNZ managers move in in their private lives - I don't know, and I don't care - but when spending public money, they need to remember that they are public servants accountable to taxpayers. They may have been able to get away with this sort of extravagance at shareholder's expense in the private sector companies they were recruited from, but they damn well shouldn't be doing it on the public purse. And any of them who disagree should be tendering their resignations right now.