Horan's accusations against NZ First 'a lower low'

HAMISH RUTHERFORD AND MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 16:23 22/05/2014

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Claims made under parliamentary privilege about the misuse of taxpayer funds by NZ First have been referred to Parliamentary Service for investigation.

Former NZ First MP Brendan Horan in Parliament yesterday accused the party of improper use of taxpayer funds.

NZ First leader Winston Peters had on Tuesday referred to Horan as "the Jimmy Savile of New Zealand politics", in reference to the late British celebrity child sex offender.

Horan said yesterday NZ First was using its leader's fund for party purposes.

Horan, now an independent MP, said NZ First had spent taxpayer funds to buy computer software called Vanguard. The software was used to recruit new members and to raise money from them.

Horan said NZ First had "paid tens of thousands of dollars out of its leader's budget to develop this software and has their parliamentary staff working to run the programme for election year".

"This is a clear breach of Parliamentary Service guidelines."

Horan also said one of NZ First's out-of-Parliament staff, paid for by Parliamentary Service, was engaged by the party to do membership work, which was "a clear conflict of interest".

A spokeswoman for Parliamentary Service confirmed today the complaint had been passed on by Speaker David Carter for further investigation.

Horan said he was happy for the "concerned citizens" who had provided him with the information that action was being taken.

The rules governing parliamentary funding aim to prevent money being used for party purposes, while parliamentary staff are meant to avoid electioneering and party political business.

Horan said NZ First claimed to hold other parties to account, but appeared to be breaching the rules of Parliament.

"I call upon the leader of that party to open its leader's budget accounts to the scrutiny of the Speaker first and then the public of New Zealand."

Peters dismissed the claims as "baseless" and said he was "totally confident" there was nothing improper about his use of the leader's budget.

He confirmed Vanguard existed, but said it had not been launched. It had been bought using taxpayer funds "just like any other political party that has computer systems and software to enable them to communicate with sector groups all around the country".

Horan said he remained confident in his source in spite of the denials.

He also said Peters was launching an investigation into the leaks.

NZ First declined to comment on the claim, saying it was "not going to dignify independent member of Parliament Brendan Horan's gross and deliberate misinformation with a response".

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Carter said Peters' "Jimmy Savile" comment was "unfortunate", but it was inevitable that tension would build as the election approached.

"We are now within weeks of a general election and from my point of view the tension in the House will build between now and the election date. There's an inevitability about that."

UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne, an MP for 30 years, said that in recent weeks the behaviour of MPs had declined, both because of the contest, but also because of frustration and arrogance on opposite sides of the House as the election approached.

"This is a lower low than we've had in a long time," Dunne said.

Parliament had become much more accessible as technology improved. While initially this had meant MPs behaved better, some were using it as a "free hit" because comments which previously were overlooked were being reported by the media and repeated on social media.

"The parties have got to take a stronger stance on their recalcitrant members, and discipline them," Dunne said.

"I think at the moment they're failing miserably on that score."

- Stuff

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