A new level of troughing


Five years after the charity Quit Group ceased to function, it continues to pay board members tens of thousands of dollar a year from funds that were not invested in smokefree services.

Yep this so called charity is paying board members generous fees, despite the charity having ceased to function. And all with money sources from taxpayers.

One of the board members is Chris Cunningham, who recently left his role as chair of the Hepatitis Foundation, after RNZ revealed late last year that he had spent $128,000 on overseas travel on top of lavish dinners at expensive Auckland restaurants.

Seems not unfair to call him a professional trougher. He is also a professor at Massey University.

A trust under the same name was set up to hold more than $3 million of reserves, including more than $400,000 of taxpayer funds it received from the , which were never spent on smokefree initiatives.

Through an official information response to the Taxpayers' Union, the of Health revealed it was aware of the reserves built up by the trust but chose not to recoup them.

So they built up $3,000,000 in reserves from taxpayer money that was meant to be used for smokefree initiatives.

While no staff work for the trust it continues to gain investment income and has paid out $702,296 since 2016.

That includes paying itself $72,000 per year – or $18,000 per board member – travel expenses, legal fees and IT costs and maintenance.

$18,000 a year each to govern an organisation with no staff and no activity. Sweet.

In its response, the ministry said it has a work programme ready on reducing smoking among Māori and would be in discussion with the trust about how best to use the surplus funds.

It would not be referring the group to Charities Services – the regulator – because the ministry was in discussion with the charity.

Taxpayers' Union campaign manager Louis Houlbrooke said “this beggars belief”.

“The ministry has already let this group off the hook for four years.

“It's an insult to the ailing New Zealanders who desperately need anti-smoking support and other core health services,” he said.

The Charities Commission should definitely be investigating.

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