Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Keeping the bastards honest

John Key has taken a real step towards ensuring Ministers do not abuse their expenses, by announcing that their credit card receipts will be proactively released every three months. Good. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and public scrutiny will deter most Ministers from abuse. And if it doesn't, at least we'll know whose head to put on a spike.

At the same time, he's also refusing to follow Labour's lead and punish Ministers found to be rorting the system. And he's actively making excuses for the worst offender, Tim Groser, who spent thousands of dollars of taxpayer's money on booze from hotel minibars:

Trade Minister Tim Groser has been criticised for mini-bar bills, but Mr Key said ministers should be able to have the odd drink on the taxpayer.

"Obviously ministers have the right to have a drink from their mini-bar..."

Actually, they don't - and its right there in black and white in the rules on Travel, Accommodation, Attendance, and Communication Services Available to Members of the Executive:
2. Examples of goods and services that will generally not be paid for:


(i) Alcohol unless it relates to a portfolio/ministerial function

That's pretty clear. If Ministers are entertaining, that's one thing. But like Shane Jones' porn, sad, lonely drinking in your hotel room does not relate in any way to a ministerial function, and it is not something that we should be paying for.

Note that as Minister in charge of Ministerial Services, John Key signed off on those rules, so you'd expect him to have a vague idea of what is in them. The fact that he does not calls his own competence as a Minister into question.