21 Feb 2011

PM admits BMW car deal not handled well

9:48 pm on 21 February 2011

Prime Minister John Key has admitted that he and his office did not handle the issue of the renewal of ministerial cars well.

The Government is proceeding with a contract signed while the Labour Party was in power to replace its fleet of 34 BMWs at a discount to the usual $200,000 per car.

Labour has accused Mr Key of being dishonest over a deal made for new ministerial cars, saying he has changed his story several times.

But Mr Key says that is not the case. He says he was made aware of the deal only a few weeks ago, despite his staff knowing about it last year.

Mr Key says paperwork he received on Monday shows a series of lapses in the handling of what should have been recognised as a sensitive issue of significant public interest.

"The whole thing has been sloppy and, frankly, the public deserves better. I'm not going to make excuses - the issue should have been handled better by everyone involved, including myself. I fully acknowledge that."

Mr Key says the deal is a very good one and in 2014 when it expires BMW may be approached again to make a proposal.

However, he says when the Government is running a tight fiscal policy, it is fair that the public questions the purchase decision.

The Prime Minister says he has asked his staff to tighten up on procedures to ensure the Government's 'no surprises' policy is maintained.

Mr Goff says the fact Mr Key changed his story a number of times has undermined his credibility.