As people try to work out exactly what is happening with the Pacific Economic Development Agency (PEDA) more information is emerging about its director Anthony Joseph Pereira (aka. JR Pereira).
According to the companies office record, Pereira only became the director of PEDA on the 24th of May this year. That’s the Monday after the Budget announced $4.8 million of funding for PEDA.
But Pereira’s connections with National and the Pacific Island Affairs ministry that is going to pay PEDA go back much further.
Pereira was formerly a regional advisor for the Ministry of Pacific Affairs and, somehow, became an unelected member of the Pacific Advisory Board to the Auckland City Council following elections that he was chosen to run (and which had plenty of candidates).
Pereira’s connections with National are shrouded in mystery. Georgina te Heuehu is implying that the connection is mainly through Bill English and, I understand, his wife Mary. Pereira met with English both before and after the election, he was involved in National’s campaign last year and is, apparently, involved in its Supercity campaign this year. We know he is tied in with Michael Jones and Inga Tuigamala, whom National wants for candidates in Rugby World Cup year.
So, here’s an organisation with no history led by a person closely tied to National that has, out of the blue, been allocated $4.8 million in the Budget without a contested budget process. Worse, the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs warned the government that PEDA is not up to doing the job.
According to papers Radio New Zealand has received, the Ministry warned te Heuheu that there are “risks and implications for ministers and government in dealing with the organisation known as PEDA”.
Te Heuheu is trying to deflect in a number of odd ways.
First, she is implicating English. Not normally a smart move for a junior minister to dump the Deputy Prime Minister into scandal.
Second, she is saying that PEDA hasn’t received any money yet. Of course it hasn’t, the 10/11 fiscal year hasn’t started yet.
Third, she is suggesting the money might not go to PEDA after all. Well, the Budget allocates the money to PEDA, which means the government is asking Parliament for permission to spend the money on PEDA. The government can’t appropriate money for one reason intending to spend it on something else, it is illegal and an insult to the Parliamentary process. Of course, te Heuheu is just running distraction.
The stink around PEDA is getting higher and the government’s refusal to give straight answers is just making the situation worse.