National says it is "utterly unacceptable" that Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf was a no-show at a select committee meeting where he was scheduled to address MPs about the Budget.
It is unusual for the Secretary of the Treasury to not attend the annual Finance and Expenditure select committee where he, alongside the Minister of Finance, face questions from MPs about the Budget.
However this morning Finance Minister Grant Robertson was sitting next to an empty seat.
The focus of this particular select committee would usually have been on the Budget, but much of the time was taken up by fiery exchanges between Opposition MPs and Robertson over Makhlouf's absence.
National finance spokeswoman Amy Adams said it was "utterly unacceptable" that Makhlouf, who has resigned to take a job overseas but is still on the Treasury's payroll, was not at the committee meeting.
"You yourself [Robertson] have made reference to your confidence in his work during the Budget – he should be here, sitting beside you answering questions."
Treasury's deputy secretary Struan Little was at the meeting instead.
He said that he, and other officials, were representing the Treasury in place of Makhlouf, given that his term as Secretary to the Treasury ends next week and the subject of the meeting as about future years.
But Adams said National had questions to ask over how Treasury allowed Budget information to be publicly available on its website before it was meant to be officially released.
National had found the information by searching the Treasury's website – they have since called for Makhlouf to resign over the blunder.
The State Services Commission has launched an inquiry into the saga.
Makhlouf will finish his tenure as Treasury Secretary next week and will take over as the Governor of the Irish Central Bank in September.
Speaking to the committee this morning, Robertson said Makhlouf's absence at the committee was entirely a matter for the Treasury.
Adams, however, was not satisfied.
"The fact remains that Mr Makhlouf is still paid by the taxpayer to be the Secretary of the Treasury and he should be here… Mr Makhlouf is on the payroll, he prepared this Budget, he should be sitting beside you."
Speaking to media after the committee, Robertson said it was the Treasury's view that, given Makhlouf finishes as Treasury Secretary next week, the people who are responsible for the rollout of the Budget were there.
"I've got confidence in the executive leadership team."
Asked if he thought Makhlouf's absence had anything to do with the current Treasury saga, Robertson would not comment.
"Again, that would be a decision he [Makhlouf] made and Treasury made and you would have to ask them."
He said he was informed a few days ago that Makhlouf would not be at this morning's meeting.
A Treasury spokesman said the committee was informed on Monday that Makhlouf would not be at the meeting this morning.