Governments are supposed to make laws not abuse them:
The Auditor-General has confirmed the Labour Government unlawfully used millions of taxpayer dollars to settle the Ihumātao land dispute.
In response to a letter from National’s Housing spokesperson Nicola Willis, written in March, the Auditor-General has confirmed today that the $30 million deal to buy the disputed land from Fletchers was not done by the book.
“The Auditor-General’s report uncovers extremely dodgy behaviour from Labour Government Ministers as they tried to justify this spending,” Ms Willis says.
The Auditor-General’s inquiries have revealed that after Treasury officials refused to let the Government use money from the Land for Housing programme to make the Ihumātao payment, Ministers invented a completely new spending category: ‘Te Puke Tāpapatanga a Hape (Ihumātao)’ within Vote Housing and Urban Development in the Budget.
“They did this on February 9 but tried to keep it secret,” Ms Willis says. “The Auditor-General raised serious concerns about the way this was done, saying ‘the payment of $29.9 million was incurred without the proper authority’.
Tried to keep it secret? What happened to the most open and transparent government?
According to the Auditor-General, the Ministry did not seek the correct approvals for money in the Budget to be used in this way, making the payment unlawful until validated by Parliament as part of an Appropriation (Confirmation and Validation) Act, Ms Willis says.
“This is a disgraceful abuse of the law. Ministers are not a law unto themselves with authority to write cheques whenever they wish. They need to get the approval of Parliament first.
“But when it came to Ihumātao, the Labour Government decided the usual rules need not apply.”
The Auditor-General says the Housing Minister will now be required to explain the matter to the House of Representatives and seek validation of the expenditure from Parliament through legislation.
National’s Finance spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says this is a shocking abuse of privilege and of taxpayer funds by the Labour Government.
“We warned the Government all along that its treatment of the dispute was leading to awkward precedents, and here is the proof.
“Taxpayers aren’t a bank to be called upon to clean up the Government’s poor decisions, particularly when it is meddling in private property rights.
“The Prime Minister should never have involved herself in the Ihumātao dispute and stopped 480 much-needed houses from being built.
“National would protect the land owner’s property rights and ensure full and final treaty settlements are just that – full and final.”
You can read the Auditor General’s reply to Nicola Willis here.
. . .In our view, the intent of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, and the intent of Ministers, was to establish a new appropriation that would provide authority for the purchase of the land at Ihumātao. However, because the Ministry did not seek the correct approvals, the expenditure was incurred without appropriation and without authority to use Imprest Supply. For these reasons, the payment is unlawful until validated by Parliament. . .
This started when the Prime Minister interfered in an illegal occupation with a total disregard for property rights and the urgent need for more houses.
As a result of her interference the occupation was prolonged, houses weren’t built and the taxpayer ended up with a $30m bill that the government paid unlawfully.
This wasn’t accidental or carelessness. It was deliberate and compounding the wrongdoing was using money set aside to build houses to stop houses being built.
What happens when lawmakers abuse the law in this way?
They will retrospectively approve the payment to validate it.
That will sort the legal issue and the government will ride out any political damage it’s inflicted on itself.
But it won’t build any houses and it won’t do anything to remedy the undermining of the principle that Treaty settlements are full and final.