Quite suddenly, the government has pulled the plug on the controversial $4.8 million in uncontested funding it awarded to the previously unknown Pacific Economic Development Agency in this year’s Budget.
It all stinks to high heaven.
Just a few weeks back, Georgina te Heu Heu and Bill English were steadfastly defending the funding and denying that there was anything outside the norm about gifting $4.8 million to an unproven organisation rather than using a contested process.
The Government is trying to say that the decision to make the funding contestable was made by the CEO of Pacific Island Affairs. Bollocks. The ministers had made it very clear in public that they supported PEDA and claimed it would deliver something never quite explained of great value for the Pacific community. To think a CEO would just ignore the policy direction of his minister and the Minister of Finance (not to mention the wording of the Budget) like that is laughable.
Something was clearly about to go very wrong to have prompted this sudden turnaround by the government. Perhaps we were finally going to get to the bottom of exactly who is behind PEDA, their links (if any) to the Englishes and how the Minister of Finance ended up directing money from Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs budget be put aside for it.
As it stands we have an interesting legal situation. The government has purported to change how this $4.8 million will be spent. Yet Parliament has only just passed the Budget giving the government permission to use this money to fund PEDA. The government does not have the legal authority to do anything different with it.
Of course, the Government will just have Parliament pass retrospective legislation validating this expenditure outside mandate. Governments pass legislation like that every year because, inevitably, in the course of a year things change and governments decide the money is needed elsewhere.
But when you’ve got a government ignoring the budget legislation the Parliament has only just passed ,well, what’s the point? Why don’t we just let governments spend the money however they like and retrospectively validate it all at the end of the year? What is the point of the concept that Parliament is sovereign and the Crown must seek its approval to raise revenue and spend it if the Government is just going to ignore that Budget before the ink is even dry?
From the start this has been an example of awful governance with the stench of corruption behind it all. Don’t think it’s over – the truth will out eventually.
As a side note, self-congratulatory round of applause for The Standard’s authors for being the only major blog to resist the too obvious and poor taste pun – ‘The PEDA files’