Auditor General keeping closer eye on PGF

April 17, 2019

The Auditor General is going to be keeping a closer eye on the Provincial Growth Fund:

Auditor-General John Ryan said Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) officials had been told to improve the management of the fund after an initial review found the risk of some payments going astray.

“We carried out some preliminary work to review how [MBIE] was administering the fund,” he said, adding that the review resulted in recommendations to improve the management of payments from the fund.

“The fund also requires appropriations to be managed by multiple government departments and organisations, which increases the risk of unappropriated expenditure.” . . 

The spending of any and all public funds ought to be given very close scrutiny.

The size of the PGF – $3 billion – makes it even more important to ensure that money doesn’t go astray, especially when there are so many questions about the rigour, or lack of it, applied to the hand-outs.


AG okays Dunne’s leader’s funding – updated

June 25, 2013

United Future leader Peter Dunne can keep his leader’s funding – for now.

The Auditor General has confirmed that, for as long as the United Future party is recognised as a party for parliamentary purposes under Standing Orders, there is lawful authority for the party to receive party funding under the relevant legislation.

It follows that, if the Speaker ceases to recognise United Future as a party for parliamentary purposes, its funding entitlements will change accordingly.

Speaker David Carter is considering Dunne’s right to funding in view of the electoral Commission’s decision to treat UF’s application for re-registration as if it was a new party.

UPDATE:

The speaker has ruled that UF will no longer be recognised as a party for parliamentary purposes and its leader Peter Dunne will be treated as an independent MP.

David Carter made the announcement in the house today after giving it “considerable thought”. The ruling is effective immediately.

However, he said if the party were to regain its registration he would “revisit the matter of the recognition of its Parliamentary membership on the basis it is a political party in whose name a member was elected in the 2011 general election. . .

This would be a good time to look at the rules around leader’s funding and whether it is justified for the wee parties.


AG rules only when it suits

March 13, 2013

A few short weeks ago Labour was demanding that the government stop the Sky City convention centre deal because of an Auditor General’s report.

The party is taking a far more cavalier approach to the report from the AG on Shane Jones’s behaviour as Assistant Immigration Minister.

The Auditor-General’s report into the Yang Liu affair is extremely damning of the way Shane Jones handled the issue, and calls into question David Shearer’s judgment in reinstating him to Labour’s front bench, Acting Prime Minister Bill English says.

“Within minutes of the report being tabled in Parliament this afternoon, we have David Shearer rushing out and reinstating Shane Jones,” he says.

“I can almost understand his haste, given the calibre of his caucus and his desire to keep David Cunliffe on the backbench. But it flies in the face of the Auditor-General’s conclusions about Mr Jones’ handling of Mr Liu’s citizenship application.”

For example, on page 66 of the report, the Auditor-General says of Mr Jones: “In our view, given that he knew there were ongoing investigations by Immigration and the New Zealand Police, he should also have consulted them before making his decision, as the investigators note of the first meeting suggested he was intending to do.

And on page 67, the report continues: “The decision to approve an urgent private ceremony, following so closely the decision to authorise the grant of citizenship against the recommendation of officials, caused a degree of consternation among the department’s staff. It added to the impression that Mr Liu was receiving special treatment.”

“Despite the criticism by the Auditor-General, David Shearer is now standing behind Shane Jones,” Mr English says.

“This is just a few weeks after he demanded the Government stop the Sky City Convention Centre project because of an Auditor-General’s report. He should look in his own party’s backyard first.”

Labour are happy to invoke the Auditor General only when it suits.

There was nothing illegal in what Jones did but it does look very sloppy.

This is his second strike, the first being charging the cost of pornographic movies to his parliamentary credit card. He’s been given another chance but will be on notice.

The AG’s report is here.

 


Little things are the big things

February 26, 2010

A reading often used at wedding includes the line: the little things are the big things.

That is at least as applicable to politics as marriage.

A pair of underpants played a major role in Tuku Morgan’s undoing and a couple of bottles of wine led Phil Heatley to resign.

Yet Phillip Field hung on for months in the face of charges which eventually led to his conviction for corruption and Winston Peters clung on to the baubles of power with major questions over his behaviour and trustworthiness.

One reason that there’s been swifter action over something relatively trivial is that this is a different person and this is a different administration with different standards.

But why do little things become big things?

Perhaps because everyone can relate to little things, our own lives are full of them.

That’s one of the reasons the media focuses on what might seem to be very minor matters while giving at best cursory attention to major ones.

But little things are silly things. While never condoning major wrong doing we might understand how someone thought a big gain was worth the risk, but why bother for something trivial?

I’m pleased the Auditor General has been asked to examine all the spending.

I hope that regardless of what he finds she is able to make recommendations which ensure that misuse of credit cards, by ministers, their staff or anyone else in the public service is picked up immediately if it happens and repayment demanded.

It’s no use having rules if the people charged with applying them don’t do so without fear or favour.

Ministers should know the rules and keep them. But the system should provide a backstop should they get something wrong.


AG – better rules needed

October 29, 2009

The Auditor General has ruled there are no grounds for an inquiry into Finance Minister Bill English’s housing arrangements.

However, the AG says the rules need to be improved and recommends:

that the aim be to develop a simple and sensible system for providing MPs and Ministers with appropriate support for the costs of their accommodation while in Wellington. The system should be:

  • clear and well explained;
  • grounded in principle, with a clear purpose and scope;
  • controlled by appropriate checks and limits;
  • transparent; and
  • seamless for those receiving the support, whether they are an MP or a Minister.

As with the administration of all public money, the system should also reflect the fundamental principles of accountability, transparency, fairness, and value for money. We emphasise that the system needs to be able to be understood not only by those administering it, but also by those to whom service is being provided, and by the general public who fund it.

We endorse the new practice of publicly releasing information at regular intervals on the various support arrangements for MPs and Ministers that are being funded by the public purse. It is an important step towards better transparency and accountability.

It is in the best interests of MPs and the public to have clear rules.

MPs should not be out of pocket if they have to maintain a house in their electorate and Wellington. However, Bill has decided that he will not receive any allowance, although he could legitimately claim one or live in a ministerial house at greater cost to the taxpayer.

“I’m determined to continue focusing on the things that matter to this Government – helping Kiwis into jobs and managing the economic recovery.

“To that end, I took the personal decision last month to voluntarily repay all of the housing allowance I’ve received since the election. I’m now receiving no housing allowance – that’s my decision.”

Bill has been exonerated by the Auditor General. He has also made the right decision on this.

Running the country and getting the economy growing again are too important to be distracted by sideshows generated by the opposition which is making personal attacks because they have nothing political to get their teeth in to.


You’ve gotta know when to hold up . . .

February 19, 2009

. . . know when to fold up, know when to walk away . . .

dairy-1

Garrick Tremain’s cartoon, printed several days ago, shows that then Otago District Health Board chair Richard Thomson didn’t heed the words of the Gambler.

He didn’t accept the invitation to walk so Health Minister Tony Ryall relieved him of his chairmanship.

The ODT doesn’t agree  with that decision:

While Mr Ryall’s demands for accountability are understandable, he picked the wrong scapegoat.

. . . It was other executives and senior staff who, surely, carried far more responsibility, particularly because warnings about Swann were not passed on.

But the Minister of Health has no control over any of these people so is it possible he’s using  one of few weapons in his armoury – the right to appoint, and disappoint, the chair – to encourage the board to take further action which he can’t?

The Minister of Corrections Judith Collins is similarly constrained over the continuing employment of Barry Matthews in spite of a damning report from the auditor general about the department he heads. He is answerable to her but she is not his employer so it is up to the State Services Commission to sack him, or not.

The Prime Minister supports his minister  :

“The New Zealand public is entitled to expect accountability, and quite frankly, that report made such damning reading they can have no confidence at this point that the department is following an approved set of procedures that they promised they would follow.”

The operative word is accountability.

It’s not blame or responsibility, and anyone with the ability to chair a board or lead a government department ought to understand that, and to know that it is better to fold up and walk with dignity than to wait to have your cards taken from you.


But they still owe us

September 5, 2008

Some of the money donated  to New Zealand First went to pay back the $158,000 the party mis-spent at the last election.

The mysterious big-money donation that spurred Winston Peters’ infamous “no” press conference was $80,000 and went towards helping to put right New Zealand First’s wrongful spending at the last election.

But exactly whose $80,000 it is remains hidden behind the Spencer Trust – the entity already exposed as host to donations from Sir Robert Jones and the Vela brothers.

The money was paid to NZ First last December and the Herald understands it went towards the $158,000 the party should have refunded to the taxpayer after the Auditor-General found it had wrongfully spent. NZ First gave the sum to charity instead.

The donation is now likely to be investigated by police as NZ First breached the law by not declaring it to the Electoral Commission as required with all donations over $10,000.

Oh the irony – the donation which is started all the trouble, was meant to pay back money which should not have been spent in the first place, and still hasn’t gone back to parliamentary services so the party is still in debt to the tax payer.

And of course until the party does settle its debt to us, every cent it spends on campaigning is our cent, and tells us that New Zealand First thinks getting re-elected is more imortant than repaying the tax payers’ money it should not have spent in the first place.


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