Government agency Callaghan Innovation has spent almost $1 million in entertainment expenses from 2013 to 2016, including $1685 for pedometers as part of a staff "wellness campaign".

Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods has previously come down hard on Callaghan for spending money to entertain its own staff, but she is defending the purchase of pedometers.

Set up to help Kiwi hi-tech businesses, the agency's expenses have come under intense scrutiny following information releases under the Official Information Act made public by The Taxpayers' Union lobby group.

The information reveals entertainment expenses of $205,415 in 2013/14, $322,171 in 2014/15 and $304,673 in 2015/16, totalling $832,261 in that period.


Among the 2015/16 expenses was a $2063 receipt for an evening with drag queens at Auckland's Caluzzi cabaret bar, $5212 on Beer & Burger Joint in Auckland, $4298 at Marvel Bar and Grill, and a $508 Dockside bill that included $201 on wine and a $50 tip.

This morning Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams revealed a $185 suit hire bill at Munns in Auckland for a staff member to attend an awards ceremony, and $1685 spent on Kathmandu pedometers.

"It appears this campaign was needed to help Callaghan staff lose weight gained from their constant wining and dining," Williams said.

"Regardless, staff should be paying for their own pedometers. What's next, funding for Ab King Pros and Shake Weights?"

A spokesman for Woods said that the minister did not have an issue with the suit hire or the pedometers.

"The minister's concerns about wider issues with Callaghan's spending were raised at the time and the minister received assurances that policies had been changed.

"In this instance, the minister considers the spending appropriate, and notes that no one should have to pay to do their job," the spokesman said.

A spokesperson for Callaghan Innovation said that the agency had a new entertainment expense policy since 2015/16.

The agency's entertainment expenses related to a wide variety of activities "that are essential to our work".

"They include catering for meetings with customers, partners and staff, hosting local and overseas delegations, attending conferences and industry dinners, and meals for staff working away from their normal office.

"We are constantly reviewing our policies to make sure everything we do is aligned with our mission."

The Taxpayers' Union has lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman for Callaghan to release its entertainment expenses for 2016/17.