Hauiti protected to the bitter end

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 14:31 23/07/2014
Claudette Hauiti
CLAUDETTE HAUITI: Handed back her charge card.

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OPINION: I'd love to know who Claudette Hauiti's travel agent is - $200 for a return trip to Australia is a steal.

If she were a civil servant, a government department chief executive or even a minister we'd be able to request her credit-card receipts to find out.

But Hauiti - who announced her departure from politics yesterday - is a back-bench list MP. And therefore, inexplicably, protected from being accountable for how she spends taxpayer funds.

Fairfax NZ revealed last week that former broadcaster Hauiti surrendered her charge card after using it for unauthorised spending.

At first she blamed her staff, before admitting she'd used it to pay for a Christmas trip across the Ditch.

What she hasn't admitted to is how much personal spending went on that card.

Incredibly, National leader John Key and party Whip Louise Upston say they don't know.

They knew enough to get rid of her.

Insiders say the party was worried more would leak out and Key took charge when he returned from his Hawaii holiday.

But the party is refusing to answer questions about further allegations of misspending and Hauiti has gone to ground.

The episode has made a mockery of Key's boasts about being transparent on MPs' spending.

He made great fanfare of this openness back in 2010, axing international travel perks and opening government high heidyins to greater scrutiny.

Former minister Phil Heatley was forced to resign his portfolios for misuse of his credit card.

This transparency does not extend to Key's MPs. Hauiti and the National Party are exploiting an obstinate interpretation of the Parliamentary Service rule which prevents the release of information about MPs.

This is reasonable when it applies to private details such as pension schemes, phone records or that would identify constituents. Where it should not be applicable is the use of taxpayer cash, particularly where there are irregularities.

It ignores the reality that we, the taxpayer, are MPs' employers - not the back-office Parliamentary Service.

Both National and Hauiti have not responded to a request for a privacy waiver to allow the records to be released.

This creates the impression there is something more to hide.

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