Jun 30, 2008

Double Dipping OK - So Long As You Don't Ask Questions?

There has been a great example of investigative journalism by TV3's Duncan Garner over the past two evenings. He has been covering the court marshall of a Colonel Heaton who foolishly supplied duty free grog and smokes to a friend who was not entitled to duty free privileges. This a practice we have been aware of around the world for years, normally it is Defence or Police personnel involved [they normally only do one or two postings offshore and see this as a huge opportunity to cash in].

Heaton pleaded guilty to the charges and the matter is resolved. But we do wonder why the Defence Forces went for Heaton. He is far from alone in this practice, and given the practices that have gone on over the years this seems very minor. It was suggested to us today that they threw the book at him because he discovered that double dipping over housing allowances was deemed OK and he started asking too many questions. We can't comment on this.

But we do think that this was a pretty brave call by a Government just before an election to allow the scab to be rubbed off the issue of corruption in the overseas service. Is Heaton's crime worse than all the cars purchased in Jakarta, never used, and then sold on departure for a huge profit? What about those who served in Tehran or Moscow who sold cars on the black market and used the Embassy accounts to launder the proceeds at the official exchange rate? What about the Cop who used to supply far bigger quantities of grog to his mates in Singapore than Heaton has pleaded guilty to? What about trashing your house and causing thousands of dollars in damage which the NZ taxpayer paid up, and then being sent on several more postings? What about shipping a plane load of grandfather clocks (and possibly other antiques - this was many years ago) back to NZ for sale? What about flying a tractor back to NZ? What about missing or damaged works of art from/in MFAT residences? Why was nothing done about these transgressions? Why pick on Heaton?

There you Duncan - the rest is up to you.....