9 Oct 2011

Treasury to strengthen corporate gifts guidelines

7:43 am on 9 October 2011

The Treasury is to strengthen official guidelines on accepting corporate hospitality following a review by an independent auditor.

The move follows revelations in July this year to the Green Party under the Official Information Act which showed Treasury staff had accepted more than 200 freebies in the past year.

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie says the Treasury has fallen short of the standards New Zealanders expect of an impartial public service.

Staff from the Debt Management Office accepted scores of gifts from banks and other companies, including 98 lunches and 60 dinners, as well as attending hosted events such as rugby matches and theatre.

On Friday, Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf said employees would now only accept gifts with a value of less than $50, or where refusing them might cause embarrassment or offence.

Mr Makhlouf said all gifts above that value will be recorded, irrespective of whether or not they are accepted.

Staff would also have to refuse all gifts and hospitality that could reasonably be perceived as undermining the integrity of the Treasury and the state sector, he said

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie said on Friday he has concerns with how a number of agencies are accepting gifts from corporate clients.

Mr Rennie told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme there are a number of instances where agencies - the Treasury in particular - have not followed appropriate practices related to the receipt of event based hospitality.

"For example, tickets to the ballet, tickets to sports events, hospitality that involved a benefit of significant proportion to the individual - and that's the issue that was of concern to me."

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman says a serious error in judgement was made in accepting the hospitality and the practice will need to be closely reviewed to ensure the Treasury changes its ways.