MP hands in her charge card after Australia trip

01:53, Jul 16 2014
Claudette Hauiti
CLAUDETTE HAUITI: Handed back her charge card.

Claudette Hauiti has surrendered her parliamentary charge card after using it to pay for a Christmas trip to Australia.

The trip and other unauthorised spending on the card - known as a purchasing or p-card - led to the list MP returning it to Parliamentary Service in March.

Prime Minister John Key said in 2010 that the Government had "led the charge" on transparency of MPs' spending.

But Parliamentary Service has refused to detail the mis-spending on Hauiti's card or supply a total.

It also took more than a week for the National party to return calls.

She admitted last night that she had used the card to pay for flights to Australia, which she said cost about "$200 and something", but could not be more specific.

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"I went to Australia. It was travel only and way outside Parliamentary Service guidelines."

Asked if it was a personal trip, she replied: "Totally." She then added: "Well, no, I went to meet with Maori in Australia who were registered on the Maori roll." She has repaid the cost.

MPs have a separate travel card, which they are allowed to use for unlimited domestic travel on parliamentary business.

Hauiti, who is standing in the Kelston electorate, also blamed staff for some of the unauthorised spending.

"There were issues with my purchasing that neither of my EAs [executive assistants] were able to give me a steer on . . . it got a little bit too difficult for me to get my head around and I volunteered it back. They did not confiscate it."

The spending included refreshments for a hui held on a marae. "I thought these were quite relevant and within Speaker's rulings . . . I can't honestly tell you what the full spend was. I don't know how you are going to get the full amount."

Hauiti said she now paid for items out of her own pocket and sent receipts to Parliamentary Service for re-imbursement. "I'm really happy with that."

She also questioned why Parliamentary Service had supplied details about the taxpayer-funded card.

Hauiti said she was a new MP but had a "comprehensive orientation" with "emphasis on being accountable for public funds". "Of course it's absolutely no excuse for not knowing the Speaker's rulings. It is my responsibility and I didn't do it."

She entered Parliament in May 2013, replacing disgraced list MP Aaron Gilmore.

Hauiti fell foul of the rules in May by employing her wife, Nadine Hauiti-Mau, in her Auckland electorate office.

MPs are banned from employing a spouse or partner and Hauiti-Mau was sacked after working as an "issue assistant" for a month. At the time Hauiti said she "didn't know the rules".

National chief Whip Louise Upston said she had not asked how much the mis-spending totalled and Hauiti had not been disciplined.

"I wouldn't say that there is a lack of information [for new MPs]. Sometimes there is just too much of it. It's quite a different working environment than most people have been in before.

Parliamentary Service refused to comment on the unauthorised spending. "By mutual agreement the member uses other payment processes," general manager David Stevenson said in a statement.

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