25 Aug 2010

Former MP Roger McClay sentenced for fraud

8:20 pm on 25 August 2010

Former National MP and Children's Commissioner Roger McClay has been sentenced to 300 hours' community service for fraud.

The 65-year-old had previously admitted three charges of wrongly claiming $24,687 in travel expenses, defrauding Parliamentary Services and the charities World Vision and Keep New Zealand Beautiful.

McClay claimed his 90% air travel subsidy as a former MP while also claiming mileage from the charities for the same journeys. The fraud took place between 2005 and 2008.

McClay had originally denied 56 charges, but changed his plea and admitted the three representative charges when he appeared in court last week.

At the Auckland District Court on Wednesday, Judge Jan Doogue said McClay's offending against was calculating and has been aggravated further by the fact that he was a respected member of the community and the public had placed their trust in him.

Judge Doogue said McClay's stealing had tarnished the reputations of the charities and undermined their ability to raise funds in the future.

The judge said World Vision lost nearly $6,000 that could have made a significant difference to the families the charity helps.

The court also was told McClay would have known that Keep New Zealand Beautiful was near bankruptcy during the time of his offending.

Judge Doogue said it would be entirely fitting if McClay's community work involved rubbish collection or graffiti removal.

McClay's lawyer says his client has borrowed money and has repaid all those he defrauded.

Charity to be more cautious

Outside court, World Vision said it would be more cautious about hiring highly positioned people in future.

Chief executive Chris Clarke told Checkpoint it is disappointed that McClay, who worked for the organisation, stole from it.

Mr Clarke said the charity would be more careful hiring people such as MPs, who are entitled to claim for travel.

Keep New Zealand Beautiful chairman Tony Rush says the charity is glad it can now put the incident behind it.

Mr Rush says he would welcome McClay doing community work, such as picking up rubbish and cleaning graffiti, to keep the country looking good.