Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lindsay Mitchell: MSD cover-up

The front page story in Monday morning's  DomPost has left me very angry. It concerns an employer who took $5,000 wage subsidies from Work and Income and then failed to pass them on to beneficiaries sent to him.

I'd heard complaints from other employees of Washworks/Shop n Shine back in May this year and started asking the Ministry of Social Development questions. According to my source employees had complained to Work and Income after being short paid or not paid at all, then sacked.

So on 25 May, 2012 I asked under the Official Information Act:

The Ministry responded on 25 June, 2012:

But people had been complaining. That was my understanding and now the DomPost confirms this:
This week Work and Income Wellington regional commissioner Louise Waaka confirmed $39,807 was paid to Mr Willbourne as wage subsidies for 13 beneficiaries.

Nine of the subsidies were for employees at Mr Willbourne's Wellington car washes, and four were for his New Plymouth business.

The money was paid under the now-defunct Job Ops With Training programme, which provided incentives to businesses for employing beneficiaries under 25.

One complaint was received in December regarding holiday pay, and placements at Wash Works were stopped in March after four more complaints were received, Ms Waaka said.
So MSD was telling me they weren't investigating Shop n Shine or any other employer when quite clearly they had received complaints.

Not satisfied with the first response from MSD, on June 28, 2012 I asked more specifically under the Official Information Act:

Has a company called Shop n Shine received Work and Income subsidies and is it under investigation for abuse of those subsidies?

The Ministry responded on 26 July 2012:

 So in July MSD denied Shop n Shine (I notice they changed the name in the last sentence but surely that wouldn't have been deliberate?) was under investigation. Yet go back to their earlier response and  they state that any complaints about wage subsidy fraud "will be investigated by Work and Income and referred to NZ Police where evidence of fraud exists."

Shop n Shine must have been under investigation for it to have been "blacklisted".

Was I being misled by semantics regarding 'fraud'? Wilbourne was clearly repeatedly abusing the subsidies.

Additionally, while WINZ claim placements to Washworks ceased in March I believe placements to Shop n Shine did not. I am still trying to confirm that.

According to Work and Income Wellington regional commissioner Louise Waaka, concerns raised about employers were taken very seriously.

As a matter for cover-up maybe.

Now I am wondering how many other  investigations-that-aren't-investigations may be occurring, and the integrity of MSD's responses to my questions.


Ray S said...

"What's good for the goose is good for the gander"
I am sure WINZ would chase a beneficiary to the grave for a similar misdemeanor.

Anonymous said...

As always with Govt Departments, Employers get favoured treatment.
Workers always bear the brunt in industrial matters

Caroline Aurora said...

There are a number of stories out there of beneficiaries who get jobs and are subsequently hounded by the MSD, who demand repayment of debts at a rate that the newly-employed worker cannot afford. Staff at the debt unit seem to assume that because you're working you are now rich and don't have a right to expenses such as food, clothing and shelter. they don't acknowledge that debts have been incurred because people have needs that the benefit system does not cover, and people risk bankruptcy if they take longer to find work than they may have originally envisaged. The welfare system has is abuses, sure, but it also has people who just want to get back on their feet. These people deserve a chance to do so.