Opinion: Paul Foster-Bell shows need to end MPs' spending hypocrisy

Opinion: Paul Foster-Bell shows need to end MPs' spending hypocrisy

It's time for the secrecy at Parliament to end, and for MPs to be more accountable for their spending of taxpayer cash.

Opposition MPs are always taking aim at ministers and government departments for spending on lavish dinners, expensive overseas travel, or fancy new buildings.

They can do this because all these details are available under the Official Information Act.

But these MPs are hypocrites.

They are not covered by the OIA, meaning the details of their expenses can't be requested, and are therefore kept secret.

The total sum that each MP has racked up is the only thing made public. There's no breakdown. There's no transparency. No accountability.

It needs to change.

I found this with National's Paul Foster-Bell, a backbench list MP who's the third biggest Wellington-based spender. He has no portfolios. He has no electorate. Yet he's clearly swiping the plastic like he's won Lotto.

Yet there is no way we can check whether Mr Foster-Bell is rorting the system.

The current arrangement means an MP could book a flight to Queenstown for a holiday break, and as long as they're not profiting from it, charge it to the taxpayer.

It means MPs can fly around the country on party business, and bill the taxpayer for their campaigning.

They could visit a friend in another city, and the taxpayer could pick up the travel and accommodation bill, no questions asked.

The only thing stopping MPs from milking this secret system is honesty. And honesty doesn't cut the mustard.

What's even more infuriating is that MPs voted down a proposal to make Parliamentary Service -- which oversees MPs' expenses -- subject to the OIA.

That, in my opinion, is an admission of guilt.

The proposal was tabled during debate about adding the antiquated role of Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the OIA (which will pass tonight). But MPs voted it down. That's hypocritical.

It means we'll never know what Labour MP Kris Faafoi spent $63,861 on last year. He was the highest-spending Wellington-based MP behind his leader Andrew Little.

And yet Mr Faafoi is one of those leading the charge against government spending. He's complained at the high expenditure by ministries on overseas travel, flowers, spin doctors, and media monitoring.

It's hypocritical that he can keep all his taxpayer funding secret, yet criticise ministers and government departments for their spending.

And there are many more MPs like him. The Greens. All list MPs with no electorates, yet all their travel and accommodation expenses are secret.

The rules need to change.

The hypocrisy needs to end.