MP admits charge card also used to buy petrol

Outgoing National MP Claudette Hauiti admits using her parliamentary charge card to buy petrol for her personal car in a further breach of the rules on card use.

But she says she doesn't know how much in total she had to refund because she repaid small amounts repeatedly over the year in which she had spent outside the rules.

Ms Hauiti announced this week she would step down from Parliament, days after revelations she used the charge card for personal spending, including a $200 fee related to flights to Australia.

Last night, she told the Herald she regretted what had happened but had nobody to blame but herself because she had not known the rules and should have.

She confirmed she had also used the card for petrol for her own car and rental cars. She did not know exactly how much was spent and said she had mistakenly believed it was within the rules because the travel was largely for work purposes.

She surrendered the card earlier this year and the Parliamentary Service had assured her there was no more to repay. She said most of the misspending was in her early months as an MP.

"The refunds were paid over a period of time, so when costs ... were brought to my attention I paid them back. I genuinely thought they were within scope."

She was seeking more detailed information from the Parliamentary Service. She also clarified that the $200 relating to Australian flights was a fee to change one, not for tickets her mother-in-law had paid for to attend a family trip.

Asked if she believed she had paid too high a price for what had happened, she said she regretted it but was not making excuses for herself.

"There is no one else at fault here. There are no excuses for not knowing the rules. And that is the price you pay because this is the job we are in. Our Prime Minister has always reinforced transparency and I absolutely agree with that."

Prime Minister John Key said he accepted Ms Hauiti's assurance to him that she had believed her spending was within the rules and would repay any that did not meet the criteria.

He denied she was not being held to account. "She's made a mistake but is correcting it and she's paid a pretty heavy price. She was selected as a candidate and was likely to be on the list that would see her return to Parliament. Now she's not."

MPs get an annual allowance to cover miscellaneous costs related to their work but are entitled to a payment card to cover things such as electorate office costs. It cannot be used for personal expenses.

NZ First leader Winston Peters said the refusal to release more information was a "cover-up" and National should reveal how much was misspent.

- By Claire Trevett of the New Zealand Herald

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