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Heatley makes teary-eyed apology over expenses

Published: 9:44AM Tuesday February 23, 2010 Source: ONE News/NZPA

A Cabinet minister who used his ministerial credit card to pay for the movies and takeaway burgers has made a teary-eyed apology.
Housing Minister Phil Heatley also used the taxpayer-funded card to pay for a family road trip.
He was shame faced and close to tears after being caught out for breaking the rules over ministers' credit cards.  
"It doesn't look good at all and I'm terribly embarrassed and I've apologised to the Prime Minister and I apologised to the public and I apologise to the people of Whangarei and I'm just not particularly pleased with myself," Heatley says.
Over the last few months the Housing Minister broke the rules by putting personal expenses on his ministerial card, including charging $550 worth of luggage to the card at a Wellington store while paying back $70 he spent on a new wallet.

"The rules are clear around luggage and briefcases... and travelling equipment but I reimbursed my wallet because that's personal and day to day use," he says.

A $50 family outing to the movies was also put on the plastic.
"The movies was just a straight mistake. I pulled the wrong credit card, swiped it and realised immediately and paid within I think 10 hours," Heatley says.

A $9.50 Burger King meal also went on the card, as did costs incurred taking his family on a South Island ministerial trip.

"I should have known the rules much better around the credit card use and it's cost me dearly," he says.

While the minister is talking about his political reputation there is also a financial cost. Heatley has paid back about $900 from the South Island trip, $175 spent on wine and food at National's party conference and $30 spent on lunch with a ministerial colleague.

Prime Minister John Key says Heatley made some silly mistakes.

"There are genuine mistakes in there, there are also one or two expenses which fall outside the guidelines. Now they have been repaid. In my opinion he wasn't attempting to rort the taxpayer but they are stupid mistakes, they are silly mistakes and I wouldn't expect my Ministers to make them," says Key.
Heatley was also caught up in controversy over his housing expenses last year.

Brownlee caught out

Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee has also ben found to have flouted the rules on spending on taxpayer-funded credit cards.

Brownlee repaid $151.90 spent in September for lunch with electorate staff in Christchurch.

He has handed in his ministerial card.

"I have now returned my ministerial credit card so there can be no future confusion over what is and is not ministerial business," says Brownlee.

"I accept I have made a mistake and I have apologised to the Prime Minister."

Brownlee says he accepted his repaid spending fell outside the determination of what was ministerial business.

Three other expenses by Brownlee questioned by The Dominion Post fell within the definition of ministerial business, he said.