How much money did National’s soon-to-be-former List MP Claudette Hauiti misspend on parliamentary credit card? We don’t know. As a mere backbencher, her credit card information can’t be OIAd, meaning that they only way we’ll ever find out is if she waives privilege.
The two examples of misspending that have been made public have been Ms Hauiti’s Christmas holiday flights to Australia and the purchase of refreshments at a hui. The flights apparently cost about $200, and she can’t recall what the refreshments would have cost. She says she doesn’t know, despite the fact that she has apparently repaid all funds erroneously spent. Surely she simply needs to look at her own repayment records, and she’ll have the answer ready and waiting?
Many people have pondered how return flights to Australia over Christmas could possibly have been purchased for just $200. They would therefore like answers from Hauiti regarding what the flights actually cost. Again, Hauiti can’t remember, preferring to fudge around the issue rather than go fact-checking.
The simple fact is that Ms Hauiti has misused taxpayer funds, and the taxpayer is entitled to know the details. Hauiti has a moral obligation to waive privilege, or at the very least to confirm to taxpayers the total amount she repaid.
Does John Key know? Apparently not. He says he hasn’t asked her how much money is involved:
“That’s actually not a matter for me.That’s a matter for Parliamentary Services and her. She made it quite to me that she was standing down from Parliament and that was on the back of the advice she’d had from the party, which took a pretty dim view to her making a mistake.”
It’s the same tactic Mr Key used in relation to the John Banks electoral fraud prosecution. In that particular situation, Key refused to read Banks’ police file. If he didn’t read the file, he couldn’t possibly discover anything that would suggest Banks had lied to him.
In Ms Hauiti’s case, if Key doesn’t ask her any questions, she can’t give him any answers. And if Key doesn’t have any answers, there’s can bat away all of the media’s questions with a blithe, “I don’t know”. How elegant. And how morally wrong.
UPDATE (24/7/14 @ 1.45pm):
I’ve just noticed this NZ Herald article, in which Ms Hauiti admits using her charge card to buy petrol for her personal car. She also explains that she doesn’t know how she repaid, as the repayments were small amounts made repeatedly over the year.
My point remains unchanged. Is Ms Hauiti’s record keeping so poor that she cannot trace her repayments to Parliamentary Services? And if it is, why can’t she simply approach Parliamentary Services and ask for the total figure? I’m sure they’d be happy to oblige…
The article also clarifies that the $200 relating to flights to Australia was in fact a fee to change a flight, “not for tickets her mother-in-law had paid for to attend a family trip”. So, her mother-in-law buys the tickets, then Ms Hauiti charges the taxpayer when the flights need changing, on the basis that she’ll be meeting or had met “with Maori in Australia who were registered on the Maori roll“.