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This Government’s priorities

Written By: - Date published: 7:52 am, September 16th, 2015 - 37 comments
Categories: benefits, class war, national, national/act government, same old national, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: , , ,

Tolley-and-Key

In an unfortunate juxtaposition of events it has been shown that this Government is happy to write off debts properly owed to it by Serco but unwilling to pay debts properly owed by it to New Zealand social welfare beneficiaries.

Firstly Serco has been let off hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines imposed under its contract with the Government since the contract was signed.  From Radio New Zealand:

It has been revealed in Parliament that private prison operator Serco has been let off hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for serious contract breaches.

Mt Eden Prison is currently under the management of the Department of Corrections, while an official investigation is carried out into allegations of mismanagement by Serco.

Under questioning from Green Party corrections spokesperson David Clendon this afternoon, Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-liga spelt out the sum of Serco’s cancelled fines.

“Mr Speaker, since Serco took over management of Mt Eden Prison in 2011, I’m advised that Corrections has issued a total of 55 performance notices to Serco – seven have been withdrawn,” Mr Lotu-liga said.

“And the total amount of the withdrawals is $275,000.”

But it seems there are more fines that Serco has had cancelled and Mr Clendon asked the minister about one of them.

“Does the minister approve of Corrections’ decision to excuse the $100,000 fine that was imposed when Serco failed to take back razors that had been issued to prisoners, to inmates, if so why?” Mr Clendon asked.

Mr Lotu-liga responded that that was not one of the seven withdrawn fines he was referring too.

It is astounding that Lotu-Iiga did not know about the further forgiven fine.  It makes you wonder how much effort was put into researching the answer.

And at the same time the Government is attempting to retrospectively change the law so that money it owes beneficiaries does not have to be paid.  Again from Radio New Zealand:

Work and Income has underpaid some beneficiaries by a day for the last 18 years and the Government is now trying to change the law and wipe the arrears.

Advocates say the Government owes hundreds of thousands of people for one day’s benefit; leaving it with a bill which could stretch into the millions.

When someone applies for a benefit they usually have to wait up to two weeks for it to kick in, under what is called a stand-down period.

Work and Income was meant to pay from the day the stand-down ended – but had instead been starting the next day.

The Government is now trying to retrospectively change the payment date to the day after stand-down, and apply that back to 1998 when the law took effect.

Beneficiary advocate Kay Brereton said the Government now had a huge problem.

“This is almost every benefit that’s been granted in the last 18 years,” she said.

“For some people… they might have gone on and off the benefit a number of times. Every time they’ve gone on again, they’ve been short paid a day,” she said.

The change is hidden away in the Social Security (Extension of Young Persons Services and Remedial Matters) Amendment Bill.  The reason for the change is said to be “correcting the legislation so a benefit commences on the day after a stand down period ends as opposed to the day on which the stand down period ends”.

This is a novel use of the word “correcting”.  Because the current legislation clearly states that benefits commence on the date the stand down period ends.  And it is only when you dig down into the Regulatory Impact Statement that you realise that the change is contentious and has a retrospective effect.

Anne Tolley thinks it is no big deal as only a day’s income is involved.  To a beneficiary this is a fortune.

Labour’s Carmel Sepuloni was quoted as saying this:

How many are involved here? What numbers are we talking about?

They have an obligation to maintain transparency and make sure that we all are aware of what’s going on. They can’t just sneak through changes, without informing us about the reasons for doing that.”

Carmel’s comments are perfectly valid.  This information is not in the Regulatory Impact Statement.  You would think this would be the first piece of information researched.

So there we have it.  Another example where a foreign corporation is let off paying money it actually owes and beneficiaries are denied money they are legally entitled to.

John Key’s Aotearoa, doncha love it…

37 comments on “This Government’s priorities”

  1. Ad 1

    Great juxtaposition there.

    A compassionate government would stop this retrospective law joke, take all the money it actually owed, and use it to deliver free lunches for low-decile schools. Or something.

    I just fucking hate this government.

    • save NZ 1.1

      +100

    • Raf 1.2

      + another 100

    • tracey 1.3

      I just keep wondering how selfish we have become when so many of our fellow kiwis think behaving this way toward vulnerable people is ok… telling themselves that these people aren’t really vulnerable must help I guess.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.3.1

        These selfish people tell themselves that it’s all the beneficiaries fault and not really the fault of policies that ensure poverty wages and high unemployment.

        • Ch-ch Chiquita 1.3.1.1

          The sad thought is that in order for more people to wake up, things need to get really really bad. I’d hate to think how those who are struggling now will manage to survive.

    • Ilicit 1.4

      + 100’s

  2. adam 2

    “Just like a mad dog you’re chasing you’re tail in a circle.”
    Andy Partridge 1999.

    That what this government seems to me. We need to start just treating these Tory’s with the disrespect they whole heartily deserve.

  3. dv 3

    Anne Tolley thinks it is no big deal as only a day’s income is involved.

    SO why the need to change if it is no big deal!!!

  4. vto 4

    “Anne Tolley thinks it is no big deal as only a day’s income is involved”

    And the Serco fines of $275,000 are to serco, in the same context, also no big deal. So why don’t they just pay them?

    This government hates the poor

    Actions speak louder than words.

  5. Lanthanide 5

    Seems unlikely to me that someone in the ministry doesn’t know what the cost of retrospective payments back to 1998 would be.

    • tracey 5.1

      Agree, in fact the stealth by which they are moving to change the law suggest they know exactly how much it is.

      • Chris 5.1.1

        The total amount of the underpayment over 18 years would be huge, but the actual amount per individual would be relatively small. A lot of people wouldn’t now be on a benefit so tracking people down would be hard. Others would’ve passed. I’m not sure whether there’s much utility in going back that far. That’s not to say the problem should ignored altogether. Retrospective legislation is pretty repugnant at the best of times let alone when it involves the poor, but I wonder if a better way is for MSD to pay everybody affected who are currently receiving a benefit (which would be easy to do because those people are in the current system) and then give others not now in the system an opportunity to approach MSD for the arrears, say, within a six month window, and then clean the rest up with a law change. This is how the courts have dealt with similar issues in the past. Heck, there are plenty of other issues where MSD are regularly ripping beneficiaries off on an ongoing basis. These are the problems it’d be good to advocacy groups take head on.

        • tracey 5.1.1.1

          Can’t disagree with you.

        • Lanthanide 5.1.1.2

          “The total amount of the underpayment over 18 years would be huge,”

          You seem much more knowledgeable about this area than me.

          What’s your guestimate? Tens of millions, hundreds?

          I agree that what you’ve outlined seems like a fair approach.

          • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1.2.1

            What’s your guestimate?

            Put it this way. It’s likely to be in the millions of days at ~$30 per day.

          • Chris 5.1.1.2.2

            “What’s your guestimate? Tens of millions, hundreds?”

            It’d be difficult to guess because each underpayment is a one-off for every person granted a benefit where there’s a standdown. Most people get at least one week of standdown, the exception being people who’ve been in “temporary employment” which may or may not make up a significant portion. However, when you look at the average time a person stays on, say, the DPB, which last time I looked was only a matter of perhaps four or five years, then the turnover of benefits granted could be pretty high. Unemployment benefits, for example, would have an even lower average number of years per person therefore a higher turnover again resulting in a greater number of standdowns and a greater number of underpayments. I don’t know if the statistical variables needed to be looked at are published or readily available but going on rough numbers and rough average number of years on a benefit a guesstimate could be well into the tens of millions? How’s that?

        • Ed 5.1.1.3

          This makes a lot of sense. As far as assessing who should receive a payment, not tall beneficiaries will have had a stand-down period, and with benefits starting at different dates, the amount they were short paid will have varied over time. Depending on what data is available, it should be possible to make a payment very quickly to either all beneficiaries who their system says were short paid or to all beneficiiries in a category where they may have been short paid. The amount payable could be the amount short paid with interest if that information is readily available, or an amount equal to say the maximum amount htat could have been short paid for a beneficiary whose benefit started in the last month. Thus for example they may be able to pay all beneficiaries (in at least some categories, but all if necessary) an extra say $45 in the next pay period that their systems can cope with. Those who had multiple stand-down periods, or who are no longer on the benefit, could he given the opportunity to claim.

          This should not be a question of balancing the cost of making a payment with the votes potentially lost by not paying anything – in principle the government should seek to make the payments in the most efficient way possible. Banks and other investment providers are required to make good losses when mistakes ar made – government should not act any differently – and as for banks, it can be cheaper to be generous with a quick payment than incur the costs of extensive investigations.

          This should also not be a left/right issue – and I am surprised that Labour and the Greens have not said clearly that payments should be made to at least those known to have been short-paid.

  6. grumpystilskin 6

    Remind me again, what happens when I owe the govt money?

    • mickysavage 6.1

      It depends if you are an ordinary New Zealander or a foreign corporation …

      • adam 6.1.1

        Are not all corporations foreign?

      • Ilicit 6.1.2

        Nice one Micky……oh I forget, we don’t owe foreign corporations, we actually give them our money with no expectation of a return.

        • Bob 6.1.2.1

          “we don’t owe beneficiaries, we actually give them our money with no expectation of a return”
          FIFY

          • Grant 6.1.2.1.1

            You see that’s where you are wrong. The majority of beneficiaries use the safety net as a springboard to bounce back and contribute to society as and when they are able to. At the very least, every dollar is spent back into the economy almost immediately which helps to keep those of us lucky enough to be in work and in possession of our health and our faculties in continued employment. A large number of those dollars go into the pockets of private sector landlords. Would those people prefer benefits and housing supplements to remain static or be reduced, do you think?

            • Ilicit 6.1.2.1.1.1

              Grant, that’s my version of economics, don’t steal it from me. It actually doesn’t matter whether the money comes from Government to beneficiaries and others.

              Its a system which allows money to go around and be sent at places where it my not ever have been sent before. And if its the Governments money (which is ours anyway), why shouldn’t it complete a journey where the whole country benefits.

              At the moment, beneficiaries contribute to retail simply to survive, imagine if they had enough money to buy a magazine and help the local retail outlet at the same time.

              It’s a sorry state when almost a quarter of a million NZers are reduced to being able to do nothing but buy food and rent, but with a few more dollars, more than just food outlets would possibly see new income.

              However, Kiwis want far more for their money, they want want want, they don’t expect their money to go around even if they know they are only lining the pockets of the already wealthy.

              Such a sorry state we live in that we can’t see the reality of what our own tax paid dollars can do for our country !!!

              • Grant

                Yep. We should be prepared to provide benefits at a level that allows people to live a dignified life and participate in society for a number of reasons, from the philosophical to the purely self interested. The philosophical is based humanism / altruism in which we realise that poverty and its alleviation are both the result of our own policies and actions (human agency not the ‘invisible hand’) while the self interest is based on such things as the realisation that we, our family, our friends, our neighbours, may well be the next in the queue needing help, but also the fact that a State without adequate welfare provision is likely to be a paranoid and violent police state where the desperate become criminals and the police are vengeful and oppressive. I fail to understand why some people are determined to see us turn to that model rather than the relatively peaceful and cooperative one I grew up in during the 60’s and 70’s.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  while the self interest is based on such things as the realisation that we, our family, our friends, our neighbours, may well be the next in the queue needing help, but also the fact that a State without adequate welfare provision is likely to be a paranoid and violent police state where the desperate become criminals and the police are vengeful and oppressive.

                  Oh, you mean like the US is and NZ is becoming.

          • NickS 6.1.2.1.2

            “we don’t owe beneficiaries, we actually give them our money with no expectation of a return”
            FIFY

            Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha….

            The ignorance is strong with this one, for presently if you’re capable of working you are expected by WINZ to be actively searching for work, no matter how unsuitable it is for a particular beneficiary’s current killset. And some branches have very shit cut offs for what constitutes work capable, pushing people with significant temporary or permanent disabilities into work, when what they need is help.

            But hey, why bother with basic empiricism when you can be a massive shitlord instead? Because it’s not like beneficiaries art human at all to the likes of you.

    • dv 6.2

      AND Govt (IRD) charges penalty for late payment!!!!!!!

  7. Keith 7

    Until those at the bottom of the heap start voting, these crooks will get away with this!

  8. Draco T Bastard 8

    It makes you wonder how much effort was put into researching the answer.

    Or coming up with the lies so that he didn’t say that he discussed it over a fantastic dinner after watching the rugby as Serco’s guest in a corporate box.

    • RedBaronCV 8.1

      Perhaps we could repo that corporate box and sell it to offset the fines they owed. W are my tax dollars going on a coporate box FFS. How dare they.

  9. Kevin 9

    Maybe the Government should look at it as a form of social QE as it wil be taxed, most if not all spent back into the economy, and GST will be collected.

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