14 Oct 2009

Lee blames accounting error for failure to repay funding

6:03 am on 14 October 2009

National Party list MP Melissa Lee says a production company she part owns has moved to correct an accounting practice deemed to be in breach of its contract with New Zealand on Air.

Over the past five years Asia Vision Limited has set aside almost $100,000 of taxpayer funding as contingency, rather than refunding it as required under its contract.

Under its contract, 80% of the money should have been refunded to the government agency. New Zealand on Air has written to Ms Lee over the matter and is awaiting a response.

A Radio New Zealand political reporter says the funding goes back to 2004 and totals $100,126.

Ms Lee says the company was not aware that the money was expected to be refunded. She says it was a genuine error and Asia Vision Ltd has already amended processes to ensure it will not happen in future.

Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman says New Zealand on Air made him aware of the matter during a regular meeting in August this year.

During Question Time in Parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister John Key told MPs that his office was made aware two weeks ago about issues involving Ms Lee's company and New Zealand on Air.

However, Mr Key said that he only found out about the matter when it made the news on Monday night.

Mr Key went on to accuse New Zealand on Air of leaking the information to the Labour Party, rather than having the courtesy to send a letter to Ms Lee in the first place.

However, New Zealand On Air's chief executive Jane Wrightson says it has checked with staff and board members that the leak did not come from the agency.

The Labour Party says the Government's handling of revelations about Ms Lee's company smacks of a cover-up.

Deputy leader Annette King says Mr Key and Dr Coleman need to answer some tough questions. She says Ms Lee was alerted to the matter four months ago, and is questioning why the money has not already been repaid.