Funding fraud

Written By: - Date published: 12:50 pm, June 28th, 2012 - 23 comments
Categories: accountability, maori party, national - Tags: ,

Why did Whanau Ora the Government continue funding an organisation accused of fraud?

A Maori women’s refuge is still receiving taxpayer funding despite an audit report showing evidence of fraud, parliament has been told.

NZ First leader Winston Peters says Te Roopu Whakaruruhau o Nga Wahine in Palmerston North has had its $80,000 a year Government contract renewed through to June 2015, and he wants to know why.

“The audit report shows this refuge was a family money-generating scheme – five of the eight workers are direct family, it’s been their gravy train,” he said. “Why have no charges been laid when the word `fraud’ is screaming from the audit report – in fact it has a sub-heading titled `fraud’.” Mr Peters says the audit report for the year ended June 2011 shows:

  • Family members paid their fines with public money
  • They overpaid themselves for leave
  • They travelled overseas on the taxpayer
  • They paid themselves bonuses
  • They did not pay GST for several years.

Ministers are claiming ignorance and ducking for cover. Paula Bennett:

Ms Bennett says she would need to see evidence of the alleged fraud and if it has happened she would expect the department to take the appropriate action.

And Tariana Turia:

Mrs Turia told Radio New Zealand that while she was aware the refuge had problems she had been kept in the dark about the fraud allegations until Mr Peters revealed them on Wednesday.

It’s not acceptable for the government to keep funding a service provider after fraud has been clearly reported. It’s not acceptable for a Minister to be aware of “problems” and not even read the audit report before allocating further funding. This was all predicable, and we’ve been here before.

It’s a great pity when a small number of cases like this discredit and throw suspicion on a programme that is doing good work in other areas. But when Ministers are this negligent it is fair to ask how many other cases like this are there out there? And what is the government going to do to hold Ministers to account?

23 comments on “Funding fraud”

  1. fender 1

    “Will anyone be held to account”

    Not likely, as this is the cost to taxpayers for National buying MP support.

    • Tom Gould 1.1

      How can Tariana possibly be held to account if no-one told her? She is only the Minister in charge, after all. And she has a ‘no surprises’ policy. And she gets regular reports and briefings and gets ‘off-line’ updates from her officials. But no-one actually sat her down, asked her to focus for a moment, and told her. So looks like she is being very harshly treated, IMO.

  2. Macro 2

    On “Morning Report” this morning, Winston Peters also noted that Uncle John had been sent an email in Feb of this year alerting him to the situation. Obviously he has been too busy smiling and waving.

  3. You might want to read this story Anthony. Once again Peters has distorted the truth; the organisation concerned has received NO Whanau Ora or TPK funding:

    • r0b 3.1

      It was reported as Whanau Ora funding by every report that I saw – so let’s wait and see how this latest counter-claim stacks up. But it makes no difference, it’s still government funding and Ministerial negligence.

      • Inventory2 3.1.1

        Not really rOb; it’s actually Peters’ personal vendetta against Turia, and Whanau Ora. Yes; there are issues over accountability for public money here, but Peters seems to be going after the wrong target.

        • Carol

          Brendan Horan (correct name?), NZ First, tabled an email this afternoon to the effect of the amount the Refuge was granted via Whanau Ora.

    • Nothing to see here.  There is no Whanau Ora money going into this refuge, it is being funded by MSD …
      Really I2?

  4. bbfloyd 4

    You really need to open both eyes IV2….. quoting what is an obvious attempt to deflect scrutiny in parliament doesn’t count in the real world where such inconveniences like “independent audits” are identifying, and listing obvious examples of misuse of public money.. In laymans terms,,”fraud”!!

    Or is this just another example of the “labour government in opposition” cooking up another scam just to embarrass the national “opposition in government”??

    Waste someone elses time with your “evidence” bro…

  5. Draco T Bastard 5

    It’s not acceptable for the government to keep funding a service provider after fraud has been clearly reported.

    I’m going to have to disagree with that. What should have happened is that the management/owners got stood down and replaced by state managers while a fraud investigation goes ahead.

    • higherstandard 5.1

      Fair call.

    • r0b 5.2

      Yeah but what they did was extend funding to 2015…

      • Draco T Bastard 5.2.1

        I don’t have a problem with that if it’s providing a valuable public service as long as the people who perpetrated the alleged fraud are no longer in a position to do more and are being investigated.

  6. lefty 6

    Things do go wrong with struggling community organisations that lack the skills, experience and resources to run their organisations as well as they should.
    Sometimes it is deliberate fraud but more often it is incompetence that leads to problems.
    Of course these organisations should be held to account and matters set right, but too often the reaction to the mistakes of small community groups is disproportionate to the stuff up they have made.
    Winston has long had the habit of putting the boot into groups like this, particularly if they are Maori.
    In the process he has done a lot of harm.
    The truth is that some risks must be taken in community developement projects and in providing community based services and sometimes things will go wrong.
    Pricks like Winston putting the boot into community programmes have done a lot of damage over the years and make it very difficult for governments to provide the level of support community organisations need.
    I am no fan of Turia or Whanau Ora but I do understand what she is trying to achieve.
    People who think they are on the left should think very carefully before they jump on Winston’s various right wing bandwagons.
    Just because he is temporarily opposing the tories does not make him any less of a right wing bastard.

  7. Te Reo Putake 7

    The Greens may have just nailed Turia. They’ve got a letter that shows she knew about the issues months ago. Apology to the staff she blamed, followed by a swift resignation?

  8. White Ribbon 8

    I do not agree with the blanket statement “It’s not acceptable for the government to keep funding a service provider after fraud has been clearly reported.” Fraud is a risk that groups can put in internal controls to minimise but there is no way to prevent all fraud. Should the measure not be based on how the organisation has dealt with it and what has been put in place to minimise any future risk?

  9. deuto 9

    Well, here we go again – in terms of Ministers and their credibility.

    Just up on Stuff –

    The Green Party have released a letter that shows minister Tariana Turia was briefed on financial problems within a women’s refuge – contradicting her earlier claims.

    The letter shows Turia was informed of problems at a meeting in April.

    “It appears Tariana Turia was wrong to say she was unaware of problems at a Women’s Refuge because we now know she met with the Woman’s Refuge national collective on the situation and subsequently received correspondence from them confirming the nature of their conversation,” Turei said.

    “The letter from the Women’s Refuge national collective clearly sets out the nature of the conversation with Mrs Turia regarding Te Roopu Whakaruruhau O Nga Wahine Māori.”

    She said the ”new evidence” raises questions about ”her statements to date, her ministerial oversight”.

    “Mrs Turia has blamed her officials and must give them an unequivocal apology,” she added.

    “The buck stops with the Minister … Mrs Turia’s refusal to take responsibility for the concerns raised by Women’s Refuge reveals a serious accountability gap in the monitoring of funding for family violence services.”

    It will be interesting to see how Turia responds to this.

    Update – TRP, Snap!

    • Te Reo Putake 9.1

      I’d like to see the letter to be sure, or even better, some notes or minutes from the meeting. But this is not a good look. Shame Turia didn’t say it in the house. That’d be curtains.

  10. captain hook 10

    according to Kweewee she must have got a mandate to do whatever she wants.
    thats what mandate uhh means in toryspeak.

  11. bad12 11

    It saddens me to see both Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples reduced to the self imposed status of mere lap dogs of Slippery’s National Government,

    Upon it’s formation i was quite proud of the Maori Party, (although never a supporter), in the Party MP’s i saw Maori passionate to put to right the social statistics that had Maori always to the forefront,(how wrong headed that thought turned out to be),

    In Maori Party membership i saw young Maori politically engaged and enthusiastic enough to be door knocking in support of votes for their candidates,

    Around Wellington in particular i saw the Maori Party flag, as an emblem in the back windows of cars and vans and the full flag being flown from supporters own homes,

    By the 2011 election such support was gone,all of it, evaporated into the thin musty air of a BMW’s air-conditioning, the political hopes and aspirations of another generation of young Maori traded by Turia,Sharples,Flavell, and yes, Harawira for the sniff of leather seats in the ‘ride’, (at least Hone had the decency to walk), but the damage was done,

    Turia in particular blinded by her new found prestige among the (white)elite couldn’t see that in Her continual screeching to rack-raise the tax on tobacco products that she was taking the food off of the very tables that the Maori party support came from,

    We all know that Maori are the group who earn the least in society and also figure highly in the statistics of those who use tobacco, so it becomes a choice between tobacco or food and ask any addict what wins out in such a choice,

    If Turia wanted ‘her people’ to be protected from tobacco she only needed to have the product made a prescription poison available only by doctors prescription to the current generation of users and thus severely restrict anyone under the age of 18 now from ever having free access to the product,

    It’s a shame that that party has become tainted and blinded by the baubles of office and i can only hope that ‘their’ people have like the people of Te Tai Tonga come to the same conclusion…

  12. Kevin 12

    The issues’s raised by Winston Peters concerning governance at this organisation need to be investigated by the office of the Auditor General or by the national office of Womens Refuge.
    Tariana Turia has acknowledged that she was briefed on financial difficulties the Te Roopu Whakarurutau o Nga Wahine Maori refuge of Palmerston North were experiencing but was unaware of allegations of fraudulent use of funds until the matter was raised in parliament on Wednesday by Winston Peters. In the interests of clarifying the issues’s it would not be unreasonable for an investigation into governance at this publicly funded organisation to be conducted.
    At stake is funding channels for Womens Refuge as well as Minister Tariana Turia’s initiative Whanau Ora.

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