The Electoral Commission would like the Government to consider giving it greater powers, chairwoman Marie Shroff said at Parliament today.
But the commission will not reveal any details of its current investigation into the New Zealand First Foundation, a vehicle which allows New Zealand First to keep the original source of its donations confidential.
Shroff, a former Cabinet secretary, and former Privacy Commissioner, appeared with chief executive Alicia Wright before the justice select committee for its regular annual review.
"The investigative powers attracted my attention," she told reporters afterwards "because as Privacy Commissioner I did have the power to require documents and to require attendance and I was a little surprised to find that the Electoral Commission Board doesn't have those powers."
• NZ First refuses to answer questions over the upcoming Electoral Commission meeting
• Electoral Commission dealing with a number of complaints and queries
• Electoral Commission: Ad endorsing Air NZ CEO Christopher Luxon as National leader should have had party's consent
• Electoral Commission can't afford to educate disinterested voters
If there was a review of the electoral law, she would like that to be looked at to see if would be justified.
"It's workable at the moment but I think it is worth looking at – whether the Electoral Commission could be powered up a little more in that respect."
Alicia Wright declined to give any details about the commission's inquiry into the New Zealand First Foundation.
"I know there's a lot of public interest but at this point we don't want to speak about that any further," Wright told reporters.
"We've reached out and been provided information from a variety of sources but it is probably best that I leave it at that."
She wouldn't put a timeline on when it should be concluded or say whether she had met with New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.
Committee chair Meka Whaitiri would not allow Nick Smith to ask any questions about the law banning foreign donations over $50 which has just passed under urgency this week and which takes effect from January 1.
But outside the committee Wright said the commission had given advice on the bill, which requires the commission to give advice to party secretaries on how they should check whether donations have originally come from overseas.
She said the commission was intending to get guidance out before Christmas and it would include looking at factors such as whether donors were on the electoral roll or on the companies register.
The New Zealand First Foundation was set up on the model of the National Foundation, according to documents obtained by Stuff.
But the differences are that the National Party declares donations given to it through the foundation as though it were a donation to the party.