5 Aug 2010

Public servants told to curb entertainment spending

6:27 pm on 5 August 2010

Government department chief executives have been told to curb their spending on staff entertainment after some rewarded their employees with lavish dinners.

The State Services Commission has issued credit card expenses for public service chief executives from June 2008 to July 2010.

The release, under the Official Information Act, is the first of what will become quarterly disclosures.

It shows chief executives spent $374,578 on their business credit cards in the last financial year, down from $414,8120 the previous year.

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie says all spending was work-related and within departmental policies, and there is no evidence of any behaviour which would require disciplinary action.

It is not always practical to separate personal from work-related expenses, Mr Rennie says, so in some instances chief executives had to reimburse purchases.

He says, however, that he is concerned about spending on department entertainment by about half of the chief executives.

Solicitor-General David Collins, QC, had the highest expenses of $66,000.

Mr Rennie says it would be unfair to compare spending, as some smaller agencies share one credit card and charging for international travel varies between departments.

The smallest spender, Mr Rennie's predecessor Mark Prebble, spent $118 because the period covered only the final six days of his contract.

Acting Prime Minister Gerry Brownlee says it is good to see signs of spending restraint from public service bosses. He believes the regular disclosure of spending details will lead to good practice.

Politicians 'could learn' from PSA

The Public Service Association says politicians should follow the lead of the public sector when it comes to the use of credit cards.

The union's national secretary, Brenda Pilott, says the New Zealand public service is known internationally for transparency and a lack of corruption.

Ms Pilott says public servants have quite clear management controls on their spending and politicians would do well to exercise the same sort of controls.