Prime Minister John Key has admitted the Government's
communication over its controversial purchase of a new fleet of
BMWs was "sloppy", with most of the blame landing on his chief
The decision to replace the Government's 34 three-year-old
BMW limousines with new ones sparked anger last week, with
the move seen as hypocritical against a backdrop of
ministerial calls for spending restraint.
Mr Key said he never knew about the agreement. In Parliament
last week, Cabinet Minister Gerry Brownlee admitted Finance
Minister Bill English was told about the deal on December 17
- although that was after the Department of Internal Affairs
The Government this afternoon released hundreds of papers
detailing the purchase of the new cars, and Mr Key conceded
the issue had been handled badly.
"These papers show a series of lapses in the handling of what
should have been recognised as a sensitive issue of
significant public interest," Mr Key said.
"The whole thing has been sloppy and, frankly, the public
deserve better. I'm not going to make excuses, the matter
should have been handled better by everyone involved,
The papers showed Mr Key's chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson,
and a DIA official met last July to discuss the purchase of
the new cars.
"My chief of staff has no recollection of that meeting and
there was no follow-up by either him or DIA. He has
apologised for not drawing the matter to my attention at the
time," Mr Key said.
"He deals with an enormous number of issues. He, in my view,
is a very competent chief of staff and has a very good
political antennae so it's unusual that he didn't raise that
in that situation (and) it's unusual that he can't remember
"He's not questioning that the meeting's taken place, he just
says he has no recollection of the meeting and there was no
follow-up. And I'm at a loss to explain it, as he is."
The papers also showed Mr Key was copied into the email sent
to Mr English on December 17, but Mr Key said he had left for
holiday on December 16.
"Because it was copied to me and not something that I needed
to action, it was put in a non-urgent file, not for immediate
reading, and the first I saw of it was last week."
Mr Eagleson and the DIA had been told to tighten up their
Mr Key said the Solicitor-General had reviewed the contract
and said there was no lawful way to cancel the order for the
However, Mr Key said the deal with BMW, which included the
company paying for most maintenance and repairs, was a good
deal for the taxpayer.
Mr Key said when the current contract expired in 2014, the
Government would undertake a commercial tender process for
"Any tender from BMW would be measured against tenders from
other household brands such as Holden and Ford and so on, a
decision would then be made based on the best value for money
for the New Zealand taxpayer."
Labour leader Phil Goff said the whole affair had damaged Mr
"He has been dishonest. He has not told the public the truth.
He has changed his story constantly and that leads to a loss
of credibility," Mr Goff said.
"I think it's really damaging when people are being forced to
live on incomes that don't enable them to make ends meat and
the Government is buying a new fleet of vehicles complete
with back massagers.
"I think that's a bad look, and John Key knows that it's a