The Ministerial inquiry into the $1.5 billion shortfall in the ACC accounts has concluded that it ought to have been revealed in the PREFU.
The report found the shortfall in the Non-Earner’s Account was known to ACC, the Department of Labour, Treasury, ACC Minister Maryan Street and Finance Minister Michael Cullen in time for it to be disclosed as a fiscal risk in the Pre-election Fiscal Update.
“The previous government knew about the funding hole and effectively hid it. There are systems in place to protect us from this, but in this case they did not work,” Finance Minister Bill English said when issuing the report today.
The PREFU is supposed to ensure that no incoming government is faced with nasty fiscal surprises as National was in 1990, but what use are laws if they’re ignored?
According to the report, Treasury’s rules for the fiscal risks section of the Pre-Election Fiscal and Economic Update did not always reflect the provisions and intent of the Public Finance Act.
“Treasury secretary John Whitehead has advised me that Treasury accepts responsibility for the part it played in this error and is committed to acting on the report’s recommendations,” Mr English said.
Treasury accepts responsiblity, but what about the politicians? Will Michael Cullen do a mea culpe too or will he just take refuge in the lines he gave when asked about the shortfall in December:
“I’m the Treaty negotiations spokesman,” Dr Cullen said.
“I have no intention of re-engaging in those areas.”
He and Street have been named in the report. Helen Clark wasn’t but does anyone seriously believe she wouldn’t have known about this too?
Cullen and Clark are retiring from politics but Street isn’t. If she doesn’t accept some responsibility for what is effectively a lie to the public and show contrition for it how could we trust her in future?
But then how can we trust any of these people when they seem to think ethics is just a county in England?