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Returning MP's spending issue a 'coding error' - Collins

National leader Judith Collins says recently returned politician Harete Hipango has repaid money from what has been described as a coding error.  

Harete Hipango Source: Facebook - Harete Hipango

A NZ Herald article said the National MP faced an allegation of inappropriately spending taxpayer money, reporting it was around the purchase of some items of furniture.

"Harete Hipango has asked me to state she is the person who is the subject of that story," Judith Collins said today. 

"There were errors, maybe some misunderstandings of the rules and that any money that needed to be paid back was paid back. That is not unusual in Parliamentary service."

Collins said she personally checked with the chief executive of Parliamentary Service.

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The National leader says she suspects the MP or her staff didn’t understand the rules.

"He has confirmed although there are a couple of coding issues, that any wrong coding was repaid. Most coding is actually done by MPs' staffers."

"He has confirmed there's basically nothing in it."

"There's absolutely complete misinterpretation, there may have even been misunderstanding the rules by relatively new staff members."

When questioned about putting blame on staff, Collins said there was many occasions where MPs have had coding issues. 

"I'm saying there were errors," Collins said. "Any payment that should have been paid personally is just deducted from our salaries."

Collins said she found out about the issue from media, rather than from Hipango prior to re-entering Parliament, although she said once she looked at the situation it didn't "look that much different from other MPs". 

"Harete is a very valued member of our team."

Parliamentary Service chief executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero would not comment on the expenditure of individual MPs. 

"Members may allocate their budget as they see fit, so long as it complies with the rules of the Speaker’s Directions, or relevant Remuneration Authority determination," he said. 

"The Directions require members to ensure all expenditure is for a Parliamentary purpose, that they always receive value for money and that they should use the most cost effective option available. The rules also note that any minor assets purchased remain the property of Parliament and not the member."

"The Parliamentary Service has a well-established check and balance system. If it believes these rules have been broken it would refer the matter to the members Party Senior Whip who will resolve the issue."

Hipango recently returned to Parliament after former MP Nick Smith's retirement. Hipango first entered as the MP for Whanganui in 2017, but lost her seat in 2020 to Labour's Steph Lewis, and had been sitting on the cusp of National's MP list until this month.