Spotlight on MPs' spending

Rolling coverage

BY STAFF REPORTERS
Last updated 17:53 10/06/2010
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CHINESE FOOD: Former minister Parekura Horomia spent $500 on a meal at Grand Century Chinese Restaurant in Wellington in June 2004.
ANDREW GORRIE/The Dominion Post
CHINESE FOOD: Former minister Parekura Horomia spent $500 on a meal at Grand Century Chinese Restaurant in Wellington in June 2004.
FINE WINE: Former Arts, Culture and Heritage minister Judith Tizard splashed out more than $200 on two bottles of wine at a dinner in downtown Auckland.
MAARTEN HOLL/The Dominion Post
FINE WINE: Former Arts, Culture and Heritage minister Judith Tizard splashed out more than $200 on two bottles of wine at a dinner in downtown Auckland.
CHARTER CHARGE: Shane Jones admitted that he had once chartered a plane and put it on his credit card but said he did so only after bad weather forced him to change his plans for getting from Kaitaia to Tauranga for a speaking engagement.
CHARTER CHARGE: Shane Jones admitted that he had once chartered a plane and put it on his credit card but said he did so only after bad weather forced him to change his plans for getting from Kaitaia to Tauranga for a speaking engagement.
MINIBAR BILL: Climate Change Negotiations Minister Tim Groser purchased 22 items from his hotel minibar from December 12 - 19 last year.
WARWICK SMITH
MINIBAR BILL: Climate Change Negotiations Minister Tim Groser purchased 22 items from his hotel minibar from December 12 - 19 last year.
CARD CHARGES: Former Labour minister Chris Carter bought flowers for his partner's birthday in 2004 and purchased a movie in a Washington hotel on New Year's Eve in 2006.
CRAIG SIMCOX/The Dominion Post
FLOWERS BOUGHT: Former Labour minister Chris Carter bought flowers for his partner's birthday in 2004 and purchased a movie in a Washington hotel on New Year's Eve in 2006.
BIKING BUY: Credit Card transactions for former associate corrections minister Mita Ririnui in 2008 include $899 spent at Rocket Bikes in Tauranga and reimbursed by Mr Ririnui a week later.
KIRK HARGREAVES/The Press
BIKING BUY: Credit card transactions for former associate corrections minister Mita Ririnui in 2008 include $899 spent at Rocket Bikes in Tauranga and reimbursed by Mr Ririnui a week later.

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List of selected expenses Tizard's restaurant bill Carter's limo bill Carter's kitchenware Groser's minibar bill Jones' charter bill Jones' movie bill Jones' personal expenses Jones' personal expenses Horomia dinner bill Horomia expenses Jones' Westin bill

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LATEST: MPs' expenses revealed today show a handful have used their credit cards to purchase in-house porn, fine wine, suits, extravagant restaurant meals and golf clubs.


Internal Affairs has spent months collating 7000 pages of credit card transactions and receipts from MPs’ spending. Stuff reporters are trawling through the receipts and will provide rolling updates on all the highlights as they emerge.


17:48PM: Former senior cabinet minister Trevor Mallard said the $1100 bill from a limousine company was actually for a bus used to transport a delegation on his trip to New York. The cost would normally have been recovered from the delegation but because the account was received after the delegation costs had been finalised the decision was made not to recover the money from them because most were crown entities, or taxpayer funded organisations.

16:38PM: In 2005 former Pacific Island affairs minister Taito Phillip Field repaid an undisclosed amount for a private dinner that he charged to his ministerial credit card.  In a note to officials a staff member said the minister, sentenced last year to six years imprisonment on corruption charges, had not had his personal credit card with him and had been forced to use his ministerial card.

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15:48PM: Other expenses claimed by former conservation minister Chris Carter included $308.49 for the repair of a torn suit in Spain and $157.08 on spa treatments at a Cambodian hotel in April 2008 that was subsequently reimbursed and $150.51 in 2008 for fruit for his office.

15.36PM: A 2003 trip by Mr Mallard to the Middle East and the United States - with a budget of more than $75,000 - included "express" travel in a limousine.

The cost for the minister and his delegation to take the limousine in Long Island, New York was more than $1,180.

A note on the receipt says the costs "should have been recovered" but the "travel budget can meet".

15.23PM: On November 12 last year, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully bought $140 worth of liquor at the lobby lounge of the Conrad Hotel, in Singapore. On the same day, $13 was charged back to McCully's minibar.

On November 20, 2008, McCully charged liquor from the hotel bar at the Miraflores Park Hotel in Lima, Peru, to a total of $171. On November 23, McCully charged $180 from the same bar.

14.13PM: Labour MP Shane Jones told reporters he was not a "sex fiend" but got in the habit of watching pornographic movies while he was away.

He had informed told his wife this morning and she was injured and enraged.

He had no excuses. "I just lost the plot."

14.03PM: Mr Jones says he will not be offering to resign over revelations he used his ministerial credit card to book up pornographic movies while he was a government minister, though he admitted it was a "shocker of a look".
 
"I think a whole bunch of us have known that this day would be a shocker," he said.
 
"I don't offer any excuses. I made a fool of myself, I've disappointed lots of people."
 
He had paid the money back in 2008 without being prompted to do so to the best of his knowledge, he said.
 
"I'm not going to offer any excuses because it was inexcusable."

13.52PM: Former Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters does not appear to have had a credit card, though his staff did.

They ran up big travel and accommodation credit card charges - as you would expect - but on records examined so far - up to 2006 - most appear to be fully justified and his reimbursements were limited.

They included $25.08 for a purchase at discount store Poundstretcher in Great Britain. His office was reminded that though it was approved personal costs were not to be charged to Internal Affairs credit cards.

He also reimbursed about $22 for minibar charges at the Caledonian Hilton in Edinburgh and at the Royal Horseguards hotel in London.

The records show a charge and reimbursement for personal expenses of $159.89 at the House of Leather - a luggage and briefcase shop - in Kuala Lumpur.

When his luggage was lost in transit they bought clothes worth  $313. That included $39 for cotton boxer shorts (cheaper than his former NZ First colleague Tuku Morgan's infamous $89 pair) and $25 for socks, as well as a light blue-black checked garment (it is not stated what it was) for $249.

The records show the expenses would be claimed back on travel insurance.

In 2006 his office paid $1504 for a ministerial/parliamentary Christmas function, with $999 paid from the NZ First whips' office with the rest split between Parliamentary Services and Ministerial Services.

Mr Carter charged taxapyers for the cost of two massages - one for himself and one for his partner Peter Kasier - on a 2006 visit to Argentina.

It was not till after officials queried the charge with the hotel at which the couple had stayed that the money was repaid.

"This was a personal expense. Will send you cheque once I receive it," Mr Carter wrote to Ministerial Services.

The original cost was paid by the staff member travelling with the minister when Mr Carter's hotel bill was paid.

Hotel invoices show the one hour massages were for Mr Carter and Mr Kaiser.

13.16PM: Mr Jones has admitted using his ministerial credit card to book up pornographic movies while he was a government minister and has blamed it on the fact he is a red-blooded man.

"I'm a red blooded adult, it shouldn't have happened, it has happened, it doesn't make me feel particularly worthy but I'm not going to hide from it."

Mr Jones told reporters today he had "apologised to all and sundry" after admitting he had spent thousands on his credit card on personal items.

All of the spending had been reimbursed, most of it before Labour left office.

"A lot of the expenditure shouldn't have been on my card. Where it was personal, I've paid it back," Mr Jones said.

He refused to defended the spending - calling it an egregious lapse.

"It was wrong."

He said he was expecting a "bollocking" from Labour leaders Phil Goff and Annette King and said his political future was in the hands of his colleagues. But he would not be offering to resign.

"I just want to get through today."

13.15PM: Across two days in Tokyo last year, Mr McCully charged $509.90 at hotel bars and on the minibar.

In Tokyo, on May 20 last year, McCully charged $187 at the Highlander Bar in the Okura Hotel. A further $271.50 was charged at the Orchid Bar the following day and $51.40 came out of the minibar.

It is not clear what was purchased in each case.

13.02PM: Mr Carter's office has defended him charging the hire of 4WD hire for his partner to his work credit card, saying it was necessary to visit a national park at the invitation of the Parks and Wildlife Service of the Northern Territory.

"By long agreement the [former] Minister and his partner prefer that the partner drives unfamiliar vehicles."

One reason was Mr Carter "continually received phone calls".  "The cheapest rate for the 4WD vehicle allowed for only one driver; hence the hire being in the partner’s name.  This saved the NZ taxpayer money."

It was a legitimate expense and the charge was accepted by Ministerial Services, Mr Carter's office said.

12.42PM: Trade Minister Tim Groser has charged at least $1469 against tax-payer funded credit cards for alcohol purchases since becoming a Minister in November 2008.

The total amount includes a $466 mini-bar bill racked up in the space of one week during the Copenhagen climate change conference.

Groser is also the Minister for Climate Change Negotiations and travels widely.

He was the subject of censure from the Prime Minister's office in May following a complaint about heavy drinking among his trade delegation on a flight back from the Middle East.

12.32PM: On September 7, 2008 at the Langham hotel in Auckland former Labour minister Shane Jones paid for six "ultimate breakfasts" and various hot drinks for a total of $250.

On another occasion he put a breakfast for himself and two of his sons at the Dargaville Motel on his card at a cost of $105, which he reimbursed.

In November 2007 Mr Jones reimbursed $227.20 for movies, drinks, confectionary and magazines as well as $115 spent at Munns menswear shop in Wellington.

On November 30, 2007 he put $288.48 on the card for a night's accommodation at Taipa Bay Resort in Mangonui in the far north, including $160.50 for a cooked breakfast. He stayed at the report several times late in 2007.

In all he has reimbursed about $6450 in personal spending on his ministerial card.

12.23PM: In June 2006 Labour Minister Chris Carter spent $639.21 on a dinner in London for himself, his partner, New Zealand's High Commissioner to London Jonathan Hunt - known during his parliamentary career as the minister for wine and cheese - and British Labour lord Chris Smith, Britain's first openly gay MP. The minister's records state that no detailed invoice for the dinner is available.

12.02PM: On an April 2005 trip to Darwin, taxpayers paid $293.42 for Mr Carter's partner Peter Kaiser to hire a large sedan from NT Outback Adventure Rentals.

11.59AM: Meanwhile Mr Carter says the $5500 he spent on limousines during a four-day trip to Adelaide was an unavoidable expense insisted on by the Australian government when ministers travelled there.

For security reasons, they made New Zealand ministers travel in Australian Government-supplied cars and then billed the costs back to our government, he said.

11.24AM: Former Arts, Culture and Heritage minister Judith Tizard splashed out more than $200 on two bottles of wine at a dinner at Cin Cin on Quay in downtown Auckland.

The $155 bottle of Bollinger and a $55 bottle of Allan Scott wine were purchased on the former Central Auckland MP's credit card on 23 May 2008, and accompanied a meal of roast salmon, grilled tuna and fresh figs.

11.22AM: On one night at The Westin in Auckland Mr Jones charged $41.50 in what appears to be purchases from the minibar, though none were for alcohol. They were an orange juice, an apple juice, a Toblerone chocolate bar, a Moro bar, a Cadbury black forest chocolate bar, roast cashews and a mineral water.

11.13AM: Mr Carter's records suggest he spent almost $6000 on limousines during a four-day trip to Adelaide in April 2004.  

A staff member's credit card statement records total expenditure of $5507.11 on Hughes Chauffered Limousines of Richmond SA.

Elsewhere a handwritten note on the statement says:  "Land Transport costs while travelling with the Hon C. Carter in Adelaide".

11.09AM: In May last year, in Salzberg Austria, Trade Minister Tim Groser charged ten Meierhof beers worth $46 at the Schloss Leopoldskron hotel.

In Paris, Mr Groser charged $8.80, then $26.60, then $13.30 to the minibar between the 22nd and 28th of June last year.

In Sydney, on August 21 last year, there was $42.50 charged against the minibar at the Sofitel Hotel. On the 22nd, there were two further charges for the minibar of $6.70 each.

10.43AM: Credit card transactions for former associate corrections minister Mita Ririnui in 2008 include $899 spent at Rocket Bikes in Tauranga and reimbursed by Mr Ririnui a week later. Staff records also show around $NZ100 (according to handwritten conversions) on golf clubs and golf cars.

10.30AM: Shane Jones spent $330 on three bottles of Mount Difficulty Pinot Noir.

Mr Jones also reimbursed $2257.25 in August 2008 for a range of expenses between March and August 2008 including $330 for alcohol at the One Tree Grill in Auckland as part of a $722.70 bill, $312 at Suits on Broadway as well as several purchases at The Warehouse, movies costing $261.74 and minibar expenses totalling $125.50.

10.15AM: Mr Carter's records show he spent $607.79 on kitchenware on a 2003 trip to London that was posted back to New Zealand.

After details of his kitchenware purchase were posted on Stuff this morning, Mr Carter phoned Fairfax to defend the payment and said the purchase from Politico's of London was in fact for Labour Party posters for his office and Labour party mugs.  There had never been any suggestion from Ministerial Services officials that the spending was outside the rules.

10.14AM: Mr Groser charged a total of $230 to the minibar during stays at hotels in Europe and Asia in February last year. On February 21, Mr Groser purchased liquor worth $34 at the Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi, India.

On February 24, there was another $14 for liquor. Then in Bangkok, at the Conrad Hotel, a further $40 was charged against the mini-bar on February 26. These were on top of the total $142 spent at minibars in Switzerland, Germany and Belgium.

10.05AM: Former minister Parekura Horomia seems to be a fan of Chinese food and Grand Century Chinese Restaurant in Wellington in particular.

In November, he went to the restaurant for an official meal, racking up a $750 bill. This bill was to be reimbursed by the Education Ministry.

In December, he spent $463 at the same venue and repaid $195.50 as reimbursement for personal use.

His expenses are made up mostly of meal purchases. His $1816.62 bill for June 2005 included $1613.54 in restaurant expenses. It is a consistent spending pattern though they're not all this expensive.

He's also slow in reconciling his expenses, with regular reminders from Ministerial services.

Mr Horomia also spent $500 on a meal at Grand Century Chinese Restaurant in Wellington in June 2004. The meal was an official dinner, the receipt explains.

Three months later $250 was paid back towards that bill.

The meal was one of three the MP charged to his ministerial credit card that month, making up a combined total of $564.

The following month he also spent $704 on seven "official portfolio dinners".

9.40AM: Former Labour Minister Shane Jones does not recall if he used his ministerial credit card to pay for porn movies.

Far North list MP Mr Jones revealed he had paid back money that he wrongly spent on his credit card.

Mr Jones was minister for building and construction during 2007-08 in the previous government and admits to wrongly using his card to charter a plane and buy wine, magazines and books. He also wrongly used the card to buy movies when he stayed at hotels.

Asked if the movies were adult or not, Mr Jones said he could not remember.

"I can't recall exactly they were; drugs sex or rock and roll. I am a movie buff," he told Radio New Zealand.

"I don't recall. I watch a lot of movies ... I don't know. I won't rule it out but I don't remember."

Other expenses he refunding included CDs, books and magazines he bought on the road - "I hasten to add not Playboys or Penthouse."

Mr Jones also paid $1292 in April 2008 to charter a plane to Tauranga from Great Barrier Airlines. He explained that the commercial flight was cancelled and he needed to deliver ''a key sector speech'' in his building and housing portfolio.

Wine costs included an event at which he hosted a group of architects and about $300 of wine was drunk. He paid that back but said he did think it was a work expense.

Mr Jones said he paid the money back after the election.

"I knew one day there was going to be a reckoning with disclosures over credit cards."

He said he realised he'd pushed the margins.

"I was too loose for my own good in terms of putting things on the card... Fair cop, I put things on the card that ought not to have been there. I've got to accept responsibility."

The records show former Labour minister Shane Jones reimbursed $1248.72 in personal spending he wrongly put on his card.

They included four movies over two nights in January 2008 at the Sky City hotel at $19.90 each  - and a total of 12 movies altogether - in some cases two a night.

Other spending included $208.01 on petrol, $72.50 at Revas Bar in Whangarei, $31.80 at  the Backbencher Pub in Wellington and $40 at the Degree Gastrobar in Auckland.

Mr Jones earlier this year admitted to media wrong spending on the card to media at the time of the Phil Heatley saga but not the extent. National's Mr Heatley stood down from his housing and fisheries portfolios in February because of wrongful use of his ministerial credit card, but was reinstated in late March by Prime Minister John Key as Minister of Housing in February after an Audit Office report said his spending was not deliberate.

9.32AM Climate Change Negotiations Minister Tim Groser racked up a $466 minibar bill in the space of one week during the Copenhagen climate change conference.

Mr Groser's receipts have arrived among dozens of boxes delivered to parliament this morning recording receipts for all ministers from 2003 to February this year.

From December 12 last year to December 19, Mr Groser purchased 22 items from his hotel minibar. Among them was a 3cl bottle of Jim Beam, which cost NZ$55.

There were purchases for whisky, tonic, bourbon, gin, Famous Grouse, cognac and wine - some two or three times over.

Mr Groser also purchased from the mini-bar at hotels in Europe early last year.

At the Hotel Pardenn in Klosters, Switzerland, there was $10 on beer from the mini-bar on January 29. At the Regent, in Berlin, on February 2, there was $17 on a bottle of Bombay Sapphire.

At the Stanhope Hotel, in Brussels, he put $66 on his card on February 4 and another $22 the next day - both for purchases from the minibar.

9.15AM: Mr Carter also bought flowers for his partner's birthday in 2004 and purchased a movie in a Washington hotel on New Year's Eve in 2006.

Mr Carter said he had carefully checked his records and it appeared he had used the cards outside of the rules on five occasions.

On March 8, 2004, he spent $80 on flowers for his partner's birthday.

On December 31, 2006, he spent $25.49 on a movie in a hotel in Washington.

There was also a movie purchased by a staff member at a hotel in Berlin, costing $23.15.

Mr Carter said a cheque for $251.16 would be sent to the department of internal affairs to cover the amount of the five errant spends.

"My ministerial office was a very busy place. ... Small mistakes were perhaps inevitable, but never excusable."

5AM Yesterday, leaks led some former Labour government ministers to admit they had spent up on pay-per-view movies and a $600 set of golf clubs on their tax-payer-funded credit cards. The ministers say they paid the misspent money back.

Labour sources admitted yesterday that some MPs would be deeply embarrassed by the release of records from Labour's final five years in office, which show some of them using their ministerial credit cards like personal cheque accounts.

It is understood that many would make personal purchases on their cards and later reimburse taxpayers, in some cases only after Ministerial Services officials had alerted them that the spending fell outside the rules and asked them to pay the money back.

Former building and construction minister Shane Jones is flying into Wellington today in an effort to salvage his political reputation, with the release expected to show he was among the worst offenders racking up bills for wine, dinners, and pay-per-view movies booked from his hotel room.

In an effort to front-foot the revelations, Mr Jones also admitted last night that he had once chartered a plane and put it on his credit card but said he did so only after bad weather forced him to change his plans for getting from Kaitaia to Tauranga for a speaking engagement.

The cost was equivalent to flying commercially, he said.

He was coming to Wellington so he could go through his records and "go round and see everyone and explain it".

But he said he had made no secret of his spending, and had previously owned up to running up personal expenses on his credit card after paying back several thousand dollars for wine and other costs incurred "while I was doing my job".

Other Labour MPs are also likely to be embarrassed by the size of their credit card bills, including one well-travelled former minister who was asked to reimburse the cost of a massage after officials decided it fell outside the rules.

At least two former ministers are understood to have bought new wardrobes while overseas, including a suit, shirts and boxer shorts in one case. Some innocent explanations are likely - at least one of the clothing purchases is understood to have happened after the MP's luggage was lost in transit.

With the release of the records imminent, other MPs were last night standing by their spending - former associate corrections minister Mita Ririnui confirmed he bought a $600 set of golf clubs while in Australia on his ministerial credit card.

But Mr Ririnui said he reimbursed the spending within a week of his return home and used his ministerial credit card only because it was all he had on him at the time.

Internal Affairs has spent months collating 7000 pages of credit card transactions and receipts covering Labour's period in office from 2003 to 2008.

The receipts were released to Labour yesterday and about 10 staffers spent the day poring over them, keeping in close contact with leader Phil Goff, who is in China.

It cost more than $50,000 to compile the material, which followed revelations by The Dominion Post in February that Fisheries and Housing Minister Phil Heatley used his credit card to buy personal items, sparking his resignation.

Receipts showed that $1402 was spent outside the rules, including wine bought by Mr Heatley at a National Party function. He was later reinstated after the Audit Office said he did not intentionally break the rules.

It is understood that National might also have questions to answer over at least one minister's bar bills.

But the release will fuel questions over why ministers have not been pulled up more often, despite racking up bills which should have raised eyebrows among officials.

- With VERNON SMALL, MICHAEL FOX, Stuff.co.nz, and NZPA< ><-->

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