The cleaning Bill

The Dominion Post reports:

Finance Minister Bill English appears to have asked for a further $20 a week of taxpayer-funded cleaning at his $1.2 million Karori house after he had it declared a ministerial residence.

An email issued under the Official Information Act, with the sender’s name deleted, asks: “Because this is a large house comparable to Bolton St in size, could I please be accorded 3 hours cleaning instead of 2?”

The request for more cleaning is included in a December 5 email giving details of existing power suppliers, which were to change once Ministerial Services started picking up the tab. The wording suggests someone close to Mr English wrote it.

On the same day, Mr English warned that the Government’s books would get worse before they got better, but that “the National-led Government is bringing responsibility back to fiscal policy”.

I have a disability resulting from an injury I sustained years ago that makes it difficult for me to do some household cleaning tasks – particularly vacuuming. So I employ a cleaner. I could almost certainly get ACC to pay for the cost of my cleaner through their “home help” entitlement that people with injuries can claim.

But I don’t – because I earn enough to be able to pay for the cleaner myself.

Bill English earns almost five times what I do. Yet he has the temerity to ask the state to pay another $20 a week on top of the $40 he was offered – because he has a “big” house.

Oh, and he has six children. Couldn’t they do the cleaning, like mine did when they were still living at home?

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.

Let’s ALL do the Double Dipton

No Right Turn and The Standard both have blogs today on John Key’s announcement of the “reform” of Ministerial accommodation expenses.

So I decided to crunch some numbers – based on the 1 January – 30 June 2009 Ministerial Expenses return, but adjusting for Sir Double Dipton’s agreement to pay back at least part of the money he was rorting for living in his own Wellington home.

The annual expenses for the affected Ministers’ accommodation:

minaccom

Yes, Key’s “reform” will end up costing the taxpayer an additional $55488 a year – and that money will not even be spent on accommodation expenses. It will end up in Ministers’ pockets, and tax free to boot.

Could he be Sir Triple Dipton?

So Bill English has offerred to pay back about half of the money he has rorted from the taxpayer for living in his own home in Wellington.

John A at The Standard did a company search on his company that owns his Dipton farm. It revealed his registered address as in Wellington, not Dipton.

But what John A missed is that it actually reveals two different addresses for English in Wellington – one as a Director of the company and another as a shareholder of it:

Company Number 1879429 View Certificate Of Incorporation

Company RESOLUTION FARMS LIMITED

Incorporated 30-OCT-2006

Current Status REGISTERED

Entity Type Company

Constitution Filed No

Annual Return Filing Month June

Previous Names

No Previous Names on record

Address Details
Registered Office
[*** – Deleted for privacy reasons] Messines Rd
Karori
Wellington

Address for Service
[*** – Deleted for privacy reasons] Messines Road
Karori
Wellington

Directors
Name Date Appointed:

ENGLISH, Mary Agnes 30-OCT-2006
[*** – Deleted for privacy reasons] Messines Road, Karori, Wellington
ENGLISH, Simon William 30-OCT-2006
[*** – Deleted for privacy reasons] Messines Road, Karori, Wellington

Share Parcels

Total Number of shares 100

Number of Shares 50
Shareholder(s) ENGLISH, Mary Agnes [*** – Deleted for privacy reasons] Monaghan Ave, Karori, Wellington

Number of Shares 50
Shareholder(s) ENGLISH, Simon William [*** – Deleted for privacy reasons] Monaghan Ave, Karori, Wellington

So which address does he actually live at? And what is the status of the other one? Does he own it? Does he rent it out, and if so, is it to another National Party MP? Or has he just been sloppy with the paperwork, and failed to keep up?

It seems particularly curious that he could have a different address as a Director of a company to that he has as a shareholder of it. Wasn’t it sloppiness with the paperwork of this sort that saw David Parker stood down as a Minister for a period until it was sorted out?

John Key, take note.

Can I have one with a moat please?

Well, seems it’s not just Bill English rorting the system. The NZ Herald reports a number of Cabinet Ministers own residential property in Wellington, most of which are rented out, but choose to live in Ministerial homes.

I don’t begrudge Ministers the opportunity to move their families to Wellington so they can spend more time with them, and a small apartment may not provide adequately for that.

But renting out their own properties in Wellington, while the taxpayer is paying for the full cost of their Ministerial homes, is scamming it. Even though it is within the rules, surely Ministers should have exercised the restraint they are expect from the citizens they govern and offered to offset the rent they receive from their own properties against the costs of the Ministerial homes they occupy.

Here’s the list of those with their snouts in the trough:

Tim Groser: Ministerial Services paid $8937 January-June. Also owns $540,000 apartment in central Wellington, which is being used as an investment property.

Tariana Turia: Lives in a Ministerial home. Also own $520,000 property in Wellington suburb of Broadmeadows [surely that would be suitable for her family to live in]. Refuses to say if she rents it out.

Phil Heatley: Ministerial Services paid $24,607 January-June. Also owns $360,000 Wellington apartment that is being rented out.

Anne Tolley: Ministerial Services paid $22,045 January-June. Also owns $295,000 one-bedroom Wellington apartment, which is currently rented out.

Wayne Mapp: Ministerial Services paid $18,878 January-June. Also owns $285,000 Wellington apartment and rents it out.

Murray McCully: Ministerial Services paid $12,865 January-June. Owns a Wellington flat and rents it out.

Then, of course, there is Bill English, who is in a category of his own, receiving $23,673 from Ministerial Services between January and June this year to live with his wife and family in their own home.

Perhaps they should consider following this precedent – its not too late to pay back the money they have scammed.