There is exactly zero reason for the expenses of our parliamentary representatives not to be detailed and publicly available. It is our money they are spending and I have a right to know how they are using it and to be able to see who is spending what on what. At last MPs face public eye on expense accounts
MPs' expense accounts are likely to be opened to public scrutiny after a face-saving move by Prime Minister John Key led to an urgent cross-party meeting being called.
Party representatives will meet this week to discuss ways of giving more details on how MPs use their $14,800 expense accounts and accommodation and travel allowances.
The expenses are not detailed, and are not subject to the Official Information Act like other Government departments.
Both major parties had resisted changes until Mr Key called for the meeting yesterday.
When the question of MPs' expenses was raised three weeks ago, Mr Key said it was a matter for Speaker Lockwood Smith.
Dr Smith has also been reluctant to move to greater transparency, saying MPs "are under enough scrutiny as it is".
But he quickly heeded Mr Key's call yesterday, saying he would convene the meeting "as soon as practicable", probably this week.
The turnaround came after the Green Party promised to disclose its MPs' expenses spending each year. Act and the Maori Party followed suit.
The focus on expenses follows the furore in Britain after expenses claimed by House of Commons MPs were exposed as covering items including moat cleaning and duck houses.
Mr Key said the fallout from the British scandal could not be ignored.
"We can't sit back and be blind to the fact that what happened in the United Kingdom has increased pressure from voters around the world for a higher level of transparency."
The technology exists for this to be a trivial matter. They should claim their expenses electronically and provide physical receipts, the expense account data should be an RSS feed that i can add to my reader. Simple.
And don't give me anything about prying into their private lives. When I travel to Wellington once a month for a Trust meeting, I claim for a dinner with my sister in law with whom I stay, in lieu of paying for a hotel and with the blessing of the trustees. But I don't claim for dinner with my daughter. I can buy coffee for someone I am meeting on Trust business, but I can't claim for coffee with someone with whom I am doing other business. Its not that hard, I'm sure our MP's can figure it out.
And its about time.