By AUDREY YOUNG political reporter
The Green Party has volunteered all details of its superannuation fund arrangements to the Auditor-General's inquiry into MPs' allowances.
The party has a complex arrangement which uses MPs' entitlements to superannuation and to a Wellington accommodation allowance.
It was approved several years ago by the Parliamentary Service.
Under parliamentary rules, all MPs can choose their own superannuation fund. For every $1 the MPs contribute, taxpayers pay another $1.32 net.
The Green MPs contribute 8 per cent of their gross salary into a registered superannuation fund called the Green Futures Superannuation Fund.
It buys properties which are then rented back to MPs at market rates. The rent is assessed by an independent registered valuer.
The MPs then claim the rent and approved outgoings back from Parliamentary Service under the Wellington accommodation allowance of up to $16,000 a year.
The fund owns three properties, a house in Thorndon and two apartments on The Terrace. Each MP has a beneficial interest, which is calculated annually.
Greens co-leader Rod Donald said the party was looking at other investment options, including a wind-energy farm.
He said he contacted the Auditor-General, David Macdonald, and asked him if he would like to see the details.
Mr Donald quoted from a Parliamentary Service letter which approved the scheme and asked that the market rent be independently assessed.
"Such a valuation would be protection from any assertion that you were rorting the system or that Parliamentary Service was sloppy in administration of public funds," the letter said.
Mr Donald and co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons rent the Thorndon house.
Until that scheme began in 1997, Ms Fitzsimons boarded with Phillida Bunkle, at the time a fellow Green MP, in her Thorndon cottage.
Ms Bunkle was able to claim an annual allowance of up to $13,750 for the cost of her cottage because her primary residence was in Waikanae, outside Wellington.
Ms Fitzsimons paid Ms Bunkle $95 a night for staying on the mezzanine floor of the cottage, rather than paying a similar amount to a hotel.
The income was declared to Parliamentary Service and deducted from Ms Bunkle's accommodation entitlement. Ms Fitzsimons was then reimbursed from the Wellington accommodation allowance.
Ms Fitzsimons said she had been very open with Ms Bunkle over her financial arrangements.
All Green MPs at the time were required to pay 10 per cent of their salary to the Green Party - about $140 a week.
Asked if the rent she had paid helped to offset the MP's financial commitment to the Greens, Ms Fitzsimons said: "Phillida spent her money on a heap of things. You can't say what a person spends on one thing comes from any one particular source of income.
"It was entirely up to Phillida how she spent the money."
Ms Fitzsimons said the Parliamentary Service was aware of the rent arrangement throughout. But what happened to the rent after it was paid was no one's business.
Mr Donald said there had been no problem with the arrangement.
"Jeanette paid Phillida for a room. So that is income that Phillida received on top of her salary and then Phillida paid the party her tithe.
"I paid the party my tithe. Jeanette paid the party her tithe. If I happened to have a flat somewhere that I was renting to someone and that was part of my income, is that any different?"
Ms Bunkle, an Alliance list MP, and Labour MP Marian Hobbs resigned as ministers last week after the Crown Law Office raised questions about their enrolments in the Wellington Central electorate.
They had at the same time been receiving Wellington accommodation allowances as out-of-town MPs.
By AUDREY YOUNG political reporter