Where's the money Winnie?

NZ Herald Blogs Blog: Party’s delay on payback

Audrey young blogs in her fancy new blogs section of the Herald about Winston’s missing money.

It is about time Speaker Margaret Wilson called Winston Peters into her office over his party’s failure to repay the $158,000 of taxpayer money it unlawfully spent on political advertising way back in the 2005 election campaign.

The New Zealand First board met at the weekend and again delayed a decision on what to do with the money.

It wants to find out more about the 47 charities now putting up their hands to be part of the unholy lolly-scramble that the beneficent New Zealand First Party has set up after deciding to give the $158,000 to Starship Foundation – only to have it returned.

The matter will be on the agenda of its March meeting.

The sum was identified by Auditor General Kevin Brady in October 2006 – yes, 2006 – as the party’s share of $1.2 million parties wrongly spent.

Brady did not say it had to be repaid.

Nor did Wilson, but she did say this: “Although reimbursement is not legally necessary if validating legislation is enacted [it was], in this instance the matter must be considered seriously if public confidence in the Parliament is to be maintained.”

Most parties have done the decent thing and did it by June 30 last year.

All except New Zealand First and United Future have repaid in full to Parliamentary Service, the bureaucratic arm of Parliament that paid the invoices for the unlawful advertising.

It i completely unacceptable that money nicked from the taxpayer in 2005 and caught in 2006 is still outstanding in 2008. Worse still both of these parties supported the rorting and tilting of electoral law in their favour with the Electoral Finance Act while remaining in hock to tha the taxpayers for rorting the previous Electoral laws. I like Audrey’s solution.

It has now been three months since Starship Foundation chairman Bryan Mogridge said no thanks, three months for the party to choose another beneficiary of Parliament’s money, and yet there is another delay.

More than a year’s delay on a payback decision looked terribly careless; yet another is starting to look terribly suspicious, especially now that we are in an election year and parties need every cent they can get.

Wilson can’t stop New Zealand First keeping the money. She can’t make it pay back Parliament – though she could use some moral persuasion write to the board.

The best chance she has for the New Zealand taxpayer to be reimbursed is to declare Parliament a charity and perhaps remind him that charity begins at home.