By Andrew Laxon

The Government is starting to talk tougher over the $400,000-plus salary package of Lotteries Commission head David Bale.

The State Services Commissioner, Michael Wintringham, will be called in today to see the Acting Minister of State Services, Maurice Williamson, about Mr Bale's pay.

Last night, a spokesman for Mr Williamson said the minister was still concerned after receiving a briefing from Mr Wintringham, but would not comment further until after the meeting.

Mr Williamson originally said the Government might not be able to do much about Mr Bale's salary, which is higher than the pay of the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Dr Don Brash.

"I don't want to create false expectations that this can be fixed or overturned, because the contract is now signed," he said. "You can get into some pretty rocky territory if you try overturning a legally signed contract."

Yesterday, however, the Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley, criticised the contract as excessive.

"It is hard for me to conceive that a person who is managing the Lotteries Commission deserves to be paid that much.

"I don't mind people in the state sector being paid good salaries. But I worry when the person who is responsible for ... even our Health Funding Authority, which manages all the health services on behalf of taxpayers in New Zealand, gets paid a great deal less than the person who's responsible for Lotteries Commission money."

Mr Williamson also expressed his concern that the State Services Commission had not been able to stop the contract.

The Government is trying to clamp down publicly on the issue as it is worried about a series of spending scandals and golden handshakes that give the impression of a public service out of control.

In the past few months it has emerged that Work and Income NZ spent $165,000 on charter flights to a conference and the Defence Force spent $40,000 sending staff to a glitzy seminar.

Controversial golden handshakes have been paid to former Tourism Board directors Bryan Mogridge and Michael Wall and chief executive Paul Winter, to former Fire Service Commission chairman Roger Estall and chief executive Jean Martin, and to former Qualifications Authority chief executive Dr Douglas Blackmur.

Green co-leader Rod Donald said Mr Wintringham should have blown the whistle on Mr Bale's salary earlier, but the blame really lay with the Lotteries Commission, headed by former National Party president and MP Geoff Thompson.