Monday, October 12, 2009

The money was just resting in her account...

Three News had a scoop tonight on an NZ On Air investigation of National MP finding that she had misused taxpayer's money. A $100,000 contingency fund from NZOA was not spent but was not returned, instead being spent within the company. Lee's explanation?

“We didn’t have enough money so we transferred our profit margin across to cover contingencies,” she said, in an effort to explain the problem.

“We then transferred the money back at the end of the year. Technically all unspent contingency is meant to be returned to NZ on Air.

“It’s an accounting error in my view, I’m waiting for the outcome.”

So the money was just resting in her account, and she always intended to pay it back. Really. And if you stick that on a billboard, you could use it to sell beer.

There are strict rules for government contracts, and Lee appears to have breached them - first by unauthorised overspending, then by treating the next year's funding as her personal piggy bank. Those rules exist for good reason, and violating them is a serious business. As for Jonathan Coleman, it turns out that there was a clear conflict of interest between his role as Minister of Broadcasting (in which he should have been demanding accountability from Lee) and his role as Lee's campaign manager (in which he was more interested in shuffling it all under the carpet to avoid even more humiliation). I think he has some pretty serious questions to answer as well. And hopefully we will get some answers from him tomorrow.