Monday, August 06, 2012

The value of proactive release

The government released its quarterly dump of Ministerial expenses on Thursday. I've spent the last hour or so going through the credit card statements, and I'm impressed. The picture that emerges is one of Ministers spending money reasonably and appropriately. There's a few amusing bits - Steven Joyce's lonely snickers bar habit (is he not satisfied?) - but very little really outrageous. Compare this with the pattern of a few years ago when these releases started, and it seems that Ministerial abuse of expenses has decreased significantly. Which both shows the value of such proactive releases, and builds trust in government.

The exception, of course, continues to be Murray McCully. He seems incapable of checking into a hotel room without several substantial charges marked "beverage" appearing on the bill (note: this is not drinks with dinner, it is drinks alone). Now, he may have a $50 a night coffee habit. But it reads like he's spending a lot of time in hotel bars drinking our money. Then of course there's the big dinner habit - this time round, an NZ$1200 dinner for 7 in Bali, including NZ$600 for four bottles of wine (and its Australian wine, at that). He hasn't beaten his NZ$233 record for a single bottle, but the average price of those is still well beyond what is reasonable, even given his role.

Proactive release of expenses relies on Ministers having a sense of shame to improve behaviour. But McCully doesn't. He's an uncorrectable recidivist, and its time we dispensed with his services.