Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Christchurch's champagne Mayor

The Herald reports that Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker has been charging champagne to his council credit card:

The Christchurch City Council is under more fire - this time over details about Mayor Bob Parker's overseas travel spending.

The Star can reveal today that Mr Parker charged $219.25 on his ratepayer funded city council credit card for five servings of Moet et Chandon Brut champagne and a ham and cheese sandwich at the Hyatt Seoul while he was in Korea on council business last year.

The spending on the card was in breach of what he can use his city council credit card, or P (purchasing) card as it is known, for.

That's bad enough, and a sound reason why Parker should not be in politics. If you can't trust him not to abuse his office in little ways, you certainly can't trust him on the big things. But there's more to this story: the Christchurch City Council refused to provide the receipts - despite them being official information routinely provided (and indeed, proactively released) by other public bodies. In the end, they had to be gained via a leak. Its hard to escape the conclusion that they were withheld for political reasons in violation of the law.

This isn't good enough. Public bodies need to obey the law on official information. And if doing so makes someone look bad, well, that's why we're requesting it: because we cannot trust anyone to police themselves in secret.