Election 2020

NZ Public Party cleared over donations complaint

Billy Te Kahika's NZ Public Party has avoided action for now over claims of questionable donations practices, with the Electoral Commission saying the unregistered party does not seem to have broken any laws

The Electoral Commission has ruled out taking action against the NZ Public Party over a complaint about its collection and use of donations, saying it can find no breach of the law.

News of the decision comes as further light has been shed on former officials’ concerns about the party’s practices.

On Wednesday, the commission confirmed it had received a complaint about the conspiracy-driven party launched by former blues guitarist Billy Te Kahika Jr via referral from the Serious Fraud Office.

The political party was launched by Te Kahika Jr in June and formed an alliance with disgraced MP Jami-Lee Ross’ Advance NZ after it missed a cut-off to register itself in time for the election.

On Thursday afternoon, Stuff reported the complaint to the SFO had been made by former party secretary and accountant Bill Karaitiana, with former officials, members and candidates telling the outlet of “major discrepancies in the accounting system for the party”.

Te Kahika told Stuff he did not have a robust system in place for counting koha cash, saying he kept the money collected at each event “in a cash tin, normally under my bed”.

In an apparent bid to head off negative coverage of its financial activity, on Tuesday evening the party (through Advance NZ) released some documentation relating to its accounts.

“To avoid any doubt, at all times we have acted within the law, we have acted with integrity, and we have acted transparently. We have no legal requirement to release these documents, but we are doing so to be transparent with you all,” Te Kahika said.

An Electoral Commission spokeswoman said it had considered the complaint but “based on the information available, can find no breach of the Electoral Act 1993 [and] will therefore not take the matter further”.

The spokeswoman said the NZ Public Party was not subject to reporting obligations under the Electoral Act as it was not a registered party.

In August, Advance NZ declared a donation of more than $30,000 from the NZ Public Party within the required timeframe of 10 working days, and would also be required to file an annual return on the donations it had received.

“The Electoral Act does not regulate how party or candidate funds are used, other than for election advertising. Political parties have their own rules or constitutions and generally these are internal matters,” the spokeswoman said.

Te Kahika said he had never doubted his party would be cleared of wrongdoing, adding: “A few individuals, who we once trusted, have decided to launch a smear campaign in an attempt to derail the momentum that we have.”

“We thank our loyal party members, and our fast growing following on social media, for their faith in our party’s ethics and openness,” he said.

“We reserve the right to seek damages against those making frivolous complaints to public entities as they try to further their smear campaign."

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