Former Maori Language Commission boss Huhana Rokx bought clothes, shoes, personal items and went to the movies using her taxpayer-funded credit card.
Current chief executive Glenis Philip-Barbara this year repaid $2200 of taxpayer money used to buy her husband air tickets. Now the Sunday Star-Times can reveal Rokx spent $4503.27 on personal items between July 2008 and June 2010.
In August 2009 she spent $400 on clothing at Carpenters Daughter, and another $396 two weeks later. She also charged up $288 in July 2009, and $420 in October at Whakatane's Fashion Works. Other purchases were at Caroline Eve and Maggies, and she also spent $219 on a car stereo at Harvey Norman two days before Christmas.
Other purchases included $246 at Footloose Shoes, $675 on "shopping" at the NZ Post Stamp Centre, $9.50 at Reading Cinema, air tickets bought online from Air New Zealand, and travel insurance. She eventually paid the money back voluntarily, including $2300 in repayments the second half of 2009.
Guidelines for the use of credit cards by public servants say use is restricted to solely work-related purposes. "A State Services Commission employee must not use a Purchasing Card for personal benefit, directly or indirectly."
Commissioner Iain Rennie initiated the regular release of expense data in mid-2010. Ministerial credit cards were also released, and several MPs were chastised for personal purchases they later repaid, including Shane Jones, Phil Heatley and Chris Carter.
Documents collated then, but not made public until now, show Rokx charged numerous purchases to her credit card. She said there was never an intention to misuse public funds, and most of the purchases were made while travelling for work.
"It was still personal, but largely to do with travelling. I didn't have a clothing budget of course, but having to dress for the role was part of it. But as I say, I paid it back."
Rokx said she agreed a repayment timetable with the board, and met all deadlines. Personal purchases were always repaid within two weeks, and often within 24 hours, and she said it was "not clear at the time" that it was against the rules.
"I regret everything, and certainly wouldn't have knowingly done anything against the rules."
Rennie said there was a "general presumption" chief executives could not make personal use of their cards, but there was a caveat for rare work-related occasions. Purchasing clothes and shoes would not meet the exception requirements.
Rokx resigned from the commission in 2010 after staff complained about her management style. There were also accusations she employed friends and family without advertising positions.
Sir Wira Gardiner conducted an independent inquiry, the findings of which were never made public.
ROKX'S PERSONAL SPENDING
$796 at Carpenter's Daughter
$708 at Fashion Works in Whakatane
$300 at Wellington's Viva clothing store
$355 at Maggies clothing store
$246 at Footloose Shoes, Whakatane
$219 at Harvey Norman
$64.98 at Caroline Eve
$42 at Wellington's Sweet Mother's Kitchen
$31 at Speights Ale House
$9.50 at Reading Cinema
What is the Maori Language Commission? The commission, also know as Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Maori, was established under the Maori Language Act 1987. It was intended to promote Maori as a living language and regular means of communication. It is a Crown entity monitored by Te Puni Korkiri – the Maori Affairs Ministry. The commission's 2011 financial year income was $5.1 million.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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