Wednesday, June 23, 2021

End parliamentary secrecy

The Herald last night revealed that a National MP appears to be a thief:

A National Party MP faced allegations of inappropriate spending of taxpayer money – allegations the MP is refusing to front on and which Parliamentary Service refuses to discuss under the cone of silence that protects MPs.

Sources inside the National Party have told NZME that a staff member of the MP flagged a concern in the last term of Parliament, alleging items of furniture were bought out of the MP's taxpayer funds but did not appear in the office.

The items of furniture are understood to include a television.

The allegation was that the items went to the MP's home rather than their office.

It is also understood the cost of a sofa the MP bought for the office at Parliament was also questioned, and the MP was told to return it.

(The Whanganui Chronicle has since outed the MP as Harete Hipango, who is not popular with her National colleagues. Which explains why they're shanking her through the media...)

It is entirely appropriate that we pay to outfit MPs' offices. It is not acceptable for MPs to abuse this to line their own pockets. But a key problem here seems to be secrecy: Parliamentary Services simply won't talk, and is not covered by the Official Information Act, so can't be forced to. And as we see here, that lack of transparency leads to a lack of accountability and an apparent abuse of public money.

There is an easy fix for this: make Parliament subject to the OIA. That's what they did in the UK, and the result was the exposure of abuse, followed by many of the abusers being driven from office. But maybe that's exactly what our politicians are afraid of?