Friday, September 27, 2013
Mike Butler: Whanau Ora money trail elusive
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters this week tried to find out from Whanau Ora Minister Tariana Turia whether she handed out cash to Maori social service providers to help them prepare bids to become commissioning agents for the Whanau Ora scheme.
The government’s Maori department, Te Puni Kokiri, is running a process to appoint non-government organisations as commissioning agents who will allocate Whanau Ora funding to providers of health and social service providers.
Peters’ questions on Tuesday in Parliament were whether Turia gave $500,000 plus expert help to the National Hauora Coalition and $3-million to the Iwi Leaders Forum to help their bids to become commissioning agents.
Turia declared "I have no idea what the member is talking about", did an impromptu victory high-five with her Maori Party colleague Te Ururoa Flavell, and later showed media her response to emails produced by Peters in Parliament, making it clear that the funding specified by Peters was unavailable.
Sonny Tau confirmed the Iwi Chairs Forum had applied for the role of commissioning agent for both the North and South Islands.
While Peters may not have succeeded in uncovering extra financial help from Turia to Maori social service providers, he is quite accurate in saying the commissioning model would "transfer hundreds of millions of dollars to iwi-led organisations that will not be publicly accountable or subject to the usual rules surrounding the public service".
Vote Maori Affairs in this year's Budget says the Minister for Whanau Ora is responsible for just over $53-million this year.
The Whanau Ora programme creates a network of “navigators” to help beneficiaries around the complexities of government welfare agencies and scope for commissioning agents and social service providers to take a cut as the money flows on through.
Peters has dogged the scheme from its inception. He found that that thousands could access up to $20,000 of Whanau Ora cash for family get-togethers. Turia has confirmed that more than $6-million had been paid to over 2000 applicants to the scheme labelled “Whanau Integration, Innovation, and Engagement”.
Otaki’s Rahui Rugby and Sports Club received $60,000 in 2011 to “undertake whanau development research” on resilience, “whanau connectedness” and community leadership in a scheme that Peters said was proof that the Whanau Ora scheme was a “bro-ocracy”.
It got worse. Four members of the We Against Violence charitable trust, that Dunedin police said were known members of the Mongrel Mob, were charged in May last year after nearly $100,000 worth of cannabis was seized, and alleged misuse of government funding was uncovered. Ten were arrested.
One of those arrested was jailed for four years for dishonestly converting $20,000 of trust money, conspiring to sell cannabis and possessing cannabis for supply. At the time of the offending he was on bail for violence charges.
at 3:19 PM