NZ minister resigns for misusing credit card

WELLINGTON: New Zealand Minister of Housing and Fisheries Phil Heatley on Thursday resigned after misuse of his ministerial credit card was revealed, reports China’s Xinhua news agency.

Heatley told reporter at the Parliament that his decision came after he had a closer look at his ministerial credit card expenses for the past 18 months. He said they revealed an error in addition to that already in the public arena.

Heatley claimed money for two bottles of wine, writing food and beverages on the form, after already being caught out for using his ministerial credit card to pay for a family trip.

Heatley has already repaid US$123 for what he said at the time was for food and beverages at a National Party conference.

He said he was not as familiar with the rules around credit card use as he should have been, and was careless with its use.

He has asked the Auditor-General to conduct an independent inquiry into his accounts.

“I want to resign, I haven’t lived up to my own standards,” emotional Heatley told reporters.

He would remain in Parliament as member of parliament for Whangarei region, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key told a press conference on Thursday that he accepted the resignation with regret.

Key said his office has been working with the Audit Office since Wednesday in regards to Heatley’s expense claims. A full investigation will begin on Thursday afternoon.

For the time being, Maurice Williamson and David Carter will take on the housing and fisheries portfolios respectively.

New Zealand Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee also apologised this week and repaid about US$107 spent outside the rules in September, 2009 for a lunch with his electorate staff.

Heatley was the second cabinet minister to resign in the past 12 month. Richard Worth was the first government minister to resign over inappropriate behaviour. -- Bernama

Source: The Star

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