Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Different standards

Last night, Maori TV's Native Affairs exposed serious corruption at the Kohanga Reo National Trust, with trustees abusing charity credit cards to fund personal spending. The Trust is not a government organisation, but it is government-funded, so these people are stealing taxpayer's money. Worse, they're stealing it at the expense of kids' education. Its dishonest and its despicable.

So what does John Key think should be done? He's pretty clear:

Prime Minister John Key has warned that any state-funded organisation found to be misspending taxpayer money will have "the book thrown at them.''

Which is entirely appropriate. We should have no pity for thieves; those in power who steal money from the taxpayer and rob the public of services should be punished and sacked.

At the same time, I can't help but notice the contrast with how Key has handled such cases amongst his own Ministers. Back in 2010, then-Housing and Fisheries Minister Phil Heatley was found to have used a Ministerial credit card to pay for booze and family holidays, having been repeatedly warned against such spending by his officials. He resigned, but rather than "throw the book at him", Key reinstated him a month later, saying there was no intent to deceive (despite Heatley admitting that he had fraudulently filled out an expenses claim to hide the fact that he was buying booze for party cronies on the taxpayer's tab). There's clearly a different standard here. Is it because he's white? Or merely because - unlike the Kohanga Reo trustees - he is one of Key's mates?