Then came the news that it wasn’t a decision made by the government but by the Department of Internal Affairs:
Mr Key revealed this afternoon that the Government was not kept in the loop about the decision. A six-year deal for the cars was signed by Labour with a three-year rollover clause.
“That decision to invoke that rollover and bring new cars in was made by the Department of Internal Affairs without reference either to their minister or to me,” he said.
Mr Key found out about the new cars when one of the drivers told him last week.
The department did not think it had to check as it had authority from the former Labour Government.
“I can’t take responsibility for a contract that was entered into by the previous Labour Government, that wasn’t bought to my attention or to my ministers’ attention,” Mr Key said.
“I am surprised, I would’ve thought they (Internal Affairs) would have referenced it to us… politically we should have known about it, we didn’t.”
He said Internal Affairs did understand sensitivities about spending but felt they got a good deal.
Good deal or not this is not the time to be spending a few million dollars of public money if it is not absolutely necessary.
A spokesman for Internal Affairs told NZPA there was no requirement to inform the Government about its decision to chose the option of buying new vehicles.
“It’s our contract, we administer it. Our assessment was it was the best value for money to replace the vehicles now and we got a good deal in the first place and we got a good deal now,” he said.
Had the cars been kept they would have lost value and the resale price would be considerably lower.
Even if that is so, a government department is supposed to operate on a no-surprises basis with its minister.
If the person in charge doesn’t understand that something as politically charged as a fleet of flash new cars would come into that category at any time, let alone when the government is calling for restraint, s/he ought not be in a position to make that sort of decision.