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Govt ministers will make final call on Westpac contract - Key

In wake of controversial corporate hospitality, PM says MED will give advice but ministers make the final cecision on the government's banking contract.

NZPA and NBR staff
Tue, 07 Jun 2011

Government ministers and not Treasury will make the final call on any changes to the Crown's banking contract, Prime Minister John Key has indicated.

The acknowledgment comes after the Green Party last week raised questions over ministers and their staff receiving corporate hospitality from Westpac, which has held the government's banking contract since 1989.

Nine ministers confirmed they had accepted hospitality from Westpac in the past year, including box seats at the rugby sevens, while 13 said their staff had accepted similar offers.

Mr Key last week said the Greens did not have any legitimate concerns and the Government had now opened up the contract to competition.

He told reporters Treasury would make the final decision, but today said that decision would be based on advice from the Ministry of Economic Development.

"That recommendation will go to ministers, who are likely to base their decision on the recommendation," he told Parliament today.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman questioned Mr Key on whether the public should be concerned about ministers receiving corporate hospitality from Westpac, which included Rugby Sevens and rock concert tickets, plus restaurant meals.

Mr Key said he did not like the implication because it was "without foundation".

"There are well set out guidelines in the Cabinet guidelines. There is also a pecuniary interests list. The member is simply making accusations to get on the front page of the paper," he said.

Mr Norman later said in a statement that the Government needed to be clear about whether ministers who received hospitality from Westpac would be signing off the final decision.

"The public also deserve transparency around the amount of hospitality and free gifts corporates give to ministers and their staff," he said.

Westpac last week said invitations from its corporate hospitality programme were extended to "a broad range of key stakeholders, including members of both sides of the House, without prejudice or expectation".

NZPA and NBR staff
Tue, 07 Jun 2011
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Govt ministers will make final call on Westpac contract - Key