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?

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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.

Things to do in Dipton when you’re dead

Well, I suppose you could resurect yourself.

As Sir Roger Douglas has done, claiming $44,000 in expenses for an overseas holiday as his “entitlement”.

Oh, and as Don Brash and Christine Rankin have resurrected themselves.

And, yes, when Sir Double Dipton finally “retires” (and it might be sooner rather than later, given his accommodation expenses rort) he too will be eligible for 90% of his overseas travel costs being met by the taxpayer. Forever!

Sir Double Dipton says:

But the minister says Dipton remains his home and he intends to return there when he leaves Parliament.

Better get the house in order, then Bill. Including evicting the current tenants, which you need only 42 days to do under the appalling lack of residential tenure provided by the Residential Tenancies Act.

It might be sooner, rather than later, so better get moving on it Bill.

Doing the Dipton shuffle

Here’s what Wikipedia says about Bill English:

After completing his studies, he returned to Dipton to work as a farmer. In 1987, he returned to Wellington to work as a policy analyst in the New Zealand Treasury, returning to Dipton two years later.

In 1990 he stood as the National candidate in Wallace, the Southland electorate that encompassed Dipton, and won. He has been re-elected from this electorate, now known as Clutha-Southland, at every election since then.

Okay, so it seems that English lived in Wellington in 1987-89, returned to Dipton in 1989, presumably to re-engage with the local National Party organisation with view to gaining the Wallace candidate selection, which he won, and then to campaign for Parliament. He then returned to Wellington as an MP in 1990 following his election.

Then we have National Party MP Jackie Blue’s maiden speech:

I was extremely frustrated. It was John Harman who advised me to attend a Wellington Medical Women’s Conference in July 2001 to specifically lobby Annette King, the then Health Minister, who was opening the conference.

Madam Speaker I even bought a new red jacket to wear so I could be more appealing to Annette King.

I went to Wellington and, as fate would have it, also speaking at the conference was a Wellington general practitioner, Dr Mary English. At the conference dinner that night I spoke with Mary and she introduced me to her husband, Bill, who happened to be the Deputy Leader of the National Party. (my emphasis)

So the English family were well established as Wellington residents by 2001 at the latest, with both Bill and Mary working in Wellington by then.

So, how can Dipton be Sir Double Dipton’s “primary place of residence”? It appears there has been less than two years he has lived primarily there since 1987 (the time during 1989-90 when he moved back there to seek the National Party selection for Wallace and contest the 1990 election), and, on the word of a fellow National MP, he and his family appear to have resided solely in Wellington since at latest 2001.

UPDATE: Update: David Farrar is attempting to raise a defence for English that under section 72(6) of the Electoral Act, an MP does not become a Wellington resident just because they spend most of their time in Wellington.

The problem with that defence is that the provision is specifically for the purposes of the Electoral Act. Parliamentary accommodation expenses are not paid under the Electoral Act. They are paid from parliamentary appropriations pursuant to the Parliamentary Service Act and the Public Finance Act.

(6) The place where, for the purposes of this Act, a person resides shall not change by reason only of the fact that the person—

(a) is occasionally or temporarily absent from that place; or
(b) is absent from that place for any period because of his or her service or that of his or her spouse, civil union partner, or de facto partner as a member of Parliament; or
(c) is absent from that place for any period because of his or her occupation or employment or that of his or her spouse, civil union partner, or de facto partner; or
(d) is absent from that place for any period because he or she, or his or her spouse, civil union partner, or de facto partner, is a student,—

even if such absence involves occasional or regular residence at another place or other places. (my emphasis)

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.

Sir Double Dipton pays it back

So Bill English is going to pay back his accommodation allowance – well, at least some of it. According to Sir Double Dipton, it is all about “perception”:

But he said today he accepted there was a perception that he was claiming more than ordinary MPs who live in homes they have an interest in, and though he had done nothing wrong, there was only one way to change that perception.

“The fact is no amount of detail will change the perception that in some way I’m gaining a bigger allowance than other members of Parliament, so I’ve decided to deal with that perception.

“I’m the Minister of Finance. It’s my job to lead by example, so I’ll be getting in touch with the Ministerial Services to pay back the difference between the rate I’m on and the other rate going back to the election.”

Let’s see if other Ministers, particularly those like Phil Heatley and Wayne Mapp, who have been collecting accommodation allowance for both the homes they live in and theones they own and rent out to other MPs, make similar offers.