The Herald reports:
New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters is calling for an inquiry into finances at a $30 million-a-year South Auckland Maori disability support services trust, claiming evidence of hundreds of thousands of dollars in “irregular payments” that have “crippled” the organisation.
Te Roopu Taurima O Manukau Trust has income of $30.6 million a year, 500 staff and provides services to 243 people.
But Mr Peters said he’d received information alleging the trust was insolvent and had “problems related to improper processes, questionable payments, doctored invoices and the employment of a former Customs officer earlier jailed for smuggling methamphetamine”.
He said about $250,000 had been paid to two consultancy firms for financial and human resources advice “but neither firm appears to have obvious qualifications in these areas”.
“It is clear there are serious financial irregularities, like a bakery company being paid $2000 to rewire a clothesline and a payment to another company for security systems that did not exist.”
Now as the allegations are from Winston there’s a 50/50 chance they are made up, or that they have substance. They’ll come out in time.
On the wider issue, the Taxpayers’ Union has said:
“Unlike government agencies, these groups are not required to comply with the Official Information Act. This means that too often taxpayer money disappears into a void.”
“Too often there is little transparency and accountability when taxpayer money and trusts come together. The only opportunity to see even a fraction of what really goes on is when someone leaks documents, as appears to be the case here.”
“We are only going to see these kinds of accusations, time and time again. We call on the Government to commit to reform of the Official Information Act so that it covers these sorts of groups.”
Not surprisingly, I support this.
There are scores of NGOs out there that are almost entirely Government funded, yet they do not have the same transparency obligations as crown agencies. This allows millions of dollars to be spent with limited transparency.
What I would propose is a law that any organisation that is (say) over 90% funded by taxpayers should come under the Official Information Act.
This would actually improve those organisations, as knowing that their expenditure could be OIA’s, would incentivise them to spend taxpayer money more responsibly.