17 Jun 2015

Ministry spent $140k on display monitor

11:04 am on 17 June 2015

The head of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says he takes full responsibility for the $140,000 spending on a display screen.

Display monitor in the reception of the The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spent over $140,000 on the display monitor in its reception. Photo: RNZ

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said taxpayers would be unhappy about the spending, following a similar controversy about a stone street sign.

MBIE spent $140,747 on the large curved screen for the reception area of its new central Wellington building.

Mr Joyce had already expressed his disapproval at the almost $70,000 stone sign on the street outside the building.

"Yes, I'm slacked off about the sign, but overall I think we're doing a good job," he said at a recent select committee hearing.

"I think the sign expenditure was over the top, I made that clear as soon as I became aware of the issue and I've received an undertaking from the Chief Executive of MBIE that nothing like that will happen again."

Now he's been informed about the large ticket item in the Ministry's reception.

"I'm concerned about any spending which is not, in my view, not necessary, now again we've got to be careful because actually they have done well overall in terms of the cost of this renovation, reducing the costs of their tenancy."

"But I've made it quite clear to the CEO that actually if there's anything that didn't need to be spent that's too high, despite the fact that the overall budget has come in under budget, then I would be concerned about it."

Mr Joyce acknowledged taxpayers would not be happy.

"No, I don't think they'll be happy about this one, in the same way they weren't happy about the sign, and, frankly, I'm not happy either, but I would like to verify the information before I make any further comment on it."

The Ministry's chief executive David Smol has confirmed it spent $260,889 outfitting its head office reception area.

He said the $140,747 public information screen cost too much and should have been more carefully considered.

Mr Smol said he has assured the Minister that any significant projects would now have additional oversight so that costs were justifiable.

He told Morning Report the display monitor was a poor judgement and was his fault.

Asked whether it could have impact on his $620,000 salary, Mr Smol said it would be up to his employer.

"Ultimately I'm accountable for the things that the ministry does. I will have a conversation with my employer when we review my performance. That will be a matter for my employer."

Labour MP David Clark said it was just another distraction on the part of the Government.

"From doing the real things it should be doing, like increasing our exports as a percentage of GDP, and instead it's fighting internal battles like how should be spent on gold plating public service buildings."

Mr Clark said while the Ministry's CEO should take some responsibility, so should the Minister.

"The Minister has dictated the layout and the colour of the cover of publications, and I think it's beyond reasonable doubt that he should be across this kind of detail.

"He's a very political minister, there's no doubt that he's clever at the politics and I find it very hard to believe he wouldn't have asked questions about the spending in the first instance."

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