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Gifts

General

2.84 The Standing Orders require members of Parliament to disclose to the Registrar of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests of Members of Parliament any gift received with an estimated market value of more than a prescribed amount (or more than one gift from the same donor in the period with a total value of more than the prescribed amount), and the name of the donor. This declaration includes hospitality and donations in cash or kind.

2.85 Ministers who receive gifts worth more than the prescribed value must not only disclose them in their annual (or initial) return to the Registrar, but must also relinquish them, unless they obtain the express permission of the Prime Minister to retain them. Any gift received by Ministers may be relinquished to the Parliamentary Service to arrange appropriate display or storage. Gifts that Ministers receive from close family members need not be relinquished.

2.86 If a Minister is sent an unsolicited gift that is returned to the donor before the Minister takes possession of it, the gift does not need to be declared. However, once the Minister takes possession of the gift, it must be declared in a return. If the gift is subsequently returned to the donor or donated to another person or organisation, this information can be noted in the Minister's return to the Registrar.

Gifts from foreign governments

2.87 In their capacity as representatives of the government, Ministers often exchange gifts during official government visits either in New Zealand or overseas. This is an accepted practice; a refusal to accept is likely to cause offence. Such gifts are more in the nature of gifts to the office than to the incumbent. If they are worth more than the prescribed value (see paragraph 2.84), they should be relinquished before or at the time of leaving office, unless the express permission of the Prime Minister is obtained to retain them (see paragraph 2.85). Overseas posts discourage foreign governments or organisations from offering expensive gifts to Ministers, because of the rules that apply to the acceptance of such gifts.

Gifts from non-government or commercial organisations

2.88 To avoid creating or appearing to create an obligation, gifts in cash or kind are not to be solicited or accepted from a commercial enterprise or any other organisation, either in New Zealand or overseas. An exception to this principle would be the acceptance of some small unsolicited token, such as a presentation made during a visit to a marae or a factory. If a Minister wishes to keep a gift worth more than the prescribed value, the Minister should seek the express permission of the Prime Minister to retain it, or pay full value for it. The gift still needs to be disclosed to the Registrar, although an explanatory note might be added.

2.89 Payment for air travel or accommodation may constitute a gift, and must be declared in the member’s annual return. Where payment for air travel or accommodation is offered to a Minister, consideration should be given to whether it is appropriate instead for the government to pay for the air travel and accommodation, to avoid any potential or perceived conflict of interest.

Cultural gifts

2.90 Ministers are sometimes offered cultural gifts such as koha, mealofa, lafo, or quanxi. Cultural gifts are traditionally offered to honour and show respect for relationships, and reflect concepts such as service to others, reciprocity, hospitality, and responsibility.

2.91 Although cultural gifts may be offered to a Minister with the best of intentions, accepting such gifts may create a perception of a conflict of interest or attract accusations of “double dipping”. Ministers should return gifts of cash immediately, with a respectful statement explaining that they honour the intent behind the gift, but that it is their job to serve, and that they are already well remunerated for their work.

2.92 Acceptance of other cultural gifts such as fine mats or food is unlikely to create the same perception problems. The guidance in paragraphs 2.842.85 should be followed in such cases.

Political party donations

2.93 Ministers, as members of Parliament, may accept political party donations. The fact that the Minister is accepting the money on behalf of the party must be made clear, however, and the Minister must pass the money on as soon as possible.

Last updated: 
Thursday, 29 June 2017

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