Jan 21, 2008

Has Winston Misled The House?

1921 (2006). Rodney Hide to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (09 Mar 2006): Following his reply to Question for Written Answer No 1164 (2006), has the taxpayer paid any airfares for the Chef employed at the Official Residence in each of the last five years; if so, how much?
Rt Hon Winston Peters (Minister of Foreign Affairs) replied: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has not paid any airfares for the Chef employed at the Official Residence in Paris in the last five years.

On the way back to NZ the other day one of The Hive team read "Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs" by Canadian writer Jeremy Mercer. It is a book about life at the famous Paris bookstore Shakespeare & Co (ISBN 13 978-0-7538-2058-2).

It is worth a read, particularly for the evidence it contains about the poor quality expenditure and poor management controls by the NZ Embassy in Paris. It seems that the hungry writers staying at Shakespeare and Co. were being regularly fed by the Chef at the NZ Embassy, a woman called Gayle. That seems par for the course and doesn't worry The Hive that much but on page 165 of this book there is an interesting account as to how Gayle got the job in Paris.

"Back in Auckland, Gayle had cooked her way up through various kitchens and ended up at a popular downtown bistro. When she saw the advertisement for the job of personal cook to New Zealand's ambassador in Paris, it was a pinch-me-I'm-dreaming kind of moment. There was official skepticism about hiring somebody in her early 20s, and Gayle's short spiked hair didn't help the negotiations, but in the end she was hired. The job came with a plane ticket to Paris and an apartment on the top floor of the embassy."

Plane ticket to Paris? How can this be. Winston says that these were not provided. Rodney Hide, you raised the question in the first place. It might be time for a follow-up.

By the way the Ambassador at the time was one Richard Grant. Good on Richard for being so generous with your food.