Wednesday, December 04, 2019

A "coincidence"

When it was revealed that NZ First had tried to enrich itself from public office via the Provoncial Growth Fund, the Prime Minister assured us that everything was OK as Shane Jones, the Minister responsible for the fund, had recused himself. Except it seems that that recusal came very late in the piece:

Shane Jones' office received official documents about a forestry company's bid for public money five times over four months, but the New Zealand First minister only declared a conflict of interest on the day RNZ began asking questions.


Documents provided to RNZ show Mr Jones wrote to the prime minister advising her of his conflict of interests on 14 October - the same day RNZ lodged an Official Information Act request with his office.

Mr Jones has told Parliament that he was only "formally" made aware of the NZFFP bid to the Provincial Growth Fund on 14 October.

But answers to written questions lodged by National MP Chris Bishop show Mr Jones' office was sent documents mentioning NZFFP and its applications to the PGF on five occasions between 17 June and 9 October.

A spokesperson for Mr Jones said it was a coincidence that the minister declared his conflict of interests on the same day RNZ lodged its OIA.

And again, like his excuses before Parliament, if Jones isn't corrupt then he is trying very hard to look it. Because the natural conclusion to be drawn from this is that he wouldn't have recused himself if questions hadn't been asked. Which would have seen him hand over millions of dollars of public money to a company he knew all along was run by NZ First cronies.

This is an unacceptable standard for any government Minister. And like Winston Peters over NZ First's secret slush fund, he has violated the Cabinet Manual requirement to uphold and be seen to uphold the highest ethical standards. The Prime Minister should sack both of them. But she won't, because she needs their votes. And that act of political cowardice shows that she is willing to tolerate corrupt behaviour from her Ministers if it keeps her in power.