AG – better rules needed

The Auditor General has ruled there are no grounds for an inquiry into Finance Minister Bill English’s housing arrangements.

However, the AG says the rules need to be improved and recommends:

that the aim be to develop a simple and sensible system for providing MPs and Ministers with appropriate support for the costs of their accommodation while in Wellington. The system should be:

  • clear and well explained;
  • grounded in principle, with a clear purpose and scope;
  • controlled by appropriate checks and limits;
  • transparent; and
  • seamless for those receiving the support, whether they are an MP or a Minister.

As with the administration of all public money, the system should also reflect the fundamental principles of accountability, transparency, fairness, and value for money. We emphasise that the system needs to be able to be understood not only by those administering it, but also by those to whom service is being provided, and by the general public who fund it.

We endorse the new practice of publicly releasing information at regular intervals on the various support arrangements for MPs and Ministers that are being funded by the public purse. It is an important step towards better transparency and accountability.

It is in the best interests of MPs and the public to have clear rules.

MPs should not be out of pocket if they have to maintain a house in their electorate and Wellington. However, Bill has decided that he will not receive any allowance, although he could legitimately claim one or live in a ministerial house at greater cost to the taxpayer.

“I’m determined to continue focusing on the things that matter to this Government – helping Kiwis into jobs and managing the economic recovery.

“To that end, I took the personal decision last month to voluntarily repay all of the housing allowance I’ve received since the election. I’m now receiving no housing allowance – that’s my decision.”

Bill has been exonerated by the Auditor General. He has also made the right decision on this.

Running the country and getting the economy growing again are too important to be distracted by sideshows generated by the opposition which is making personal attacks because they have nothing political to get their teeth in to.

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