A PROMINENT politician in New Zealand is taking heat after racking up hefty expenses on his government credit card, including charges for spa treatments while staying at an upscale hotel in Phnom Penh, according to media reports.
Chris Carter, an opposition parliamentarian and former cabinet minister, tallied a bill of NZ$2,336 – roughly US$1,600 – during a five-night stay at Raffles Hotel Le Royal in 2008, according to The New Zealand Herald.
That sojourn included a “spa treatment” priced at NZ$204 (US$140), which was charged to a ministerial credit card, then reimbursed, the report stated.
Carter, who stayed at the hotel in 2008 when he was a cabinet minister in the former Labour government, told the newspaper he purchased the massage treatments “to help cope with the 40C heat of Phnom Penh”.
The hotel’s in-house spa, Amrita Spa, offers clients a range of relaxation and therapeutic massage services priced between $35 and $60 for 55 minutes, according to staffers there. When asked if there was a service that would help guests adjust to the city’s hot weather, a receptionist who answered the phone Sunday said the spa is offering a special that includes a massage and a choice of coconut, coffee or sesame body scrubs.
“The coconut scrub makes your skin soft and smooth,” said the receptionist, who declined to give her name. “The coffee cleans the skin’s pores.”
Either way, the expense issue appears to have rubbed some in New Zealand the wrong way.
Media reports Sunday suggested that Carter and other politicians facing criticism for their expenses could be demoted to the backbenches.
Carter, New Zealand’s first openly gay cabinet minister, was also quoted in a Herald story Sunday suggesting he was considering leaving his job because he was tired of being portrayed as a “luxury-loving gay boy”.