The F-word

No, not an expletive or anything to do with Gordon Ramsey. This f-word is fraud.

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn blogs:

Oh dear. It seems that Bill English’s housing rort to scam “expenses” to live in his own home involved telling a few lies:

Finance Minister Bill English qualified for a $700-a-week rent payment from taxpayers after signing a declaration that he had no financial interest in the trust which owned his family home.
It has been revealed that officials took concerns to the prime minister’s office about whether Mr English qualified for the payment, which is double the amount he was entitled to as an ordinary MP.

But documents issued under the Official Information Act show they were told it would be okay as long as Mr English certified that he had no financial interest in the Endeavour Trust, which owns his $1.2 million Karori property.

After he made the declaration on February 1, rent payments totalling $12,133.33 were backdated to December 1. The declaration refers to a legal opinion, which has not been made public.

According to the story, English was a joint owner of the property at the time, and did not transfer ownership of the property to his partner until March. So, at the time he made this declaration, it was false.
There is a name for this sort of thing: fraud. It’s an ugly word, but it seems to apply. And if a beneficiary or someone receiving Working For Families told similar lies to inflate their eligibility, they would unquestionably be prosecuted for it. The same should happen to English. But I forget – it’s one rule for them, another for us

Now, I wouldn’t go as far as calling it fraud – at least yet. But it’s definitely dodgy, and definitely needs investigation.

English may well have a legitimate explanation – like he thought the administrative actions involved in removing him as a beneficiary of the Endeavour Trust and removing his name from the title to the property had been completed when he signed the declaration.

But he made the declaration on February 1 this year, and applied for his additional accommodation allowance to be backdated to December 1 last year, which it was. So to have made a truthful declaration, he would have needed to believe that those administrative actions had been completed before 1 December 2008.

So there is a two month hiatus. Surely, over that time, he would have thought to check whether it had actually happened, and had happened before the 1 December 2008 date he applied to have the allowance backdated to, if he actually even intitiated them before that date.

The actual transfer of the property didn’t occur until March of this year.

So maybe not fraud, but definitely very dodgy. And in my opinion, something that should prompt the Deputy Prime Minister to either put all the evidence in the public domain or tender his resignation.

9 thoughts on “The F-word

  1. Agree with you toad, this looks and smells bad.

    I doubt if a resignation will occur. A suspention from cabinet is more likely (as Labour did with members in a similar pickle)plus a reasonably early return to the fold.

    Resignation would only ensue if the fact was proven to be deliberate evasion (fraud). Hard to prove.

  2. Suspending the deputy P.M and Finance Minister? What? Imagine if Clark had had to pull that on Cullen? An election for sure, a toppled government surely?

  3. ConorJoe

    A toppled government? The government is a team, sure one has slipped up (try proving fraud in this case) but that does not mean the whole team has to default.

    Can bet money on the fact that this wont topple any government.

    The deafening silence from her majesties loyal opposition parties (including the Greens) would indicate that there may well have been other fingers in the cookie jar.

    Sorry but no election till 2011.

  4. Gerrit, the Green have been calling for greater transparency of Ministerial and parliamentary expenses for some time, and it was a Green initiative that prompted the Speaker’s decision to require MPs and Ministers to reveal their taxpayer funded expenses.

    You are right that Labour have been remarkably silent over this – at least until yesterday when Pete Hodgson asked a number of questions in Pariament about Bill English’s expenses. I suspect they felt the need to take the time to do a stocktake on their own performance when in office before criticising National’s – just in case it backfired.

    As for English’s cleaning bill

  5. That is not the same as putting Bill English on the receiving end of a specific question relating on what information he made his housing claims on, who authorised it and was he aware that it was at best not a moral position to hold.

  6. The reason they’re so silent on this is because effectively Bill English is the head of the right wing of National, while John Key is the head of its centre wing.

    Disciplining or dismissing English would risk tearing the party in half, as they’d have nobody effective to pour poison in the PM’s ear ;P

  7. Oh, and Gerrit: I agree with you. Hopefully one of our* MPs will do the honours.

    *as in, the country’s, not the party’s.

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