About the $158,000

August 28, 2017

Winston Peters has admitted to a mistake he said was fixed:

Some media contacts have called to alert me about a possible story about superannuation.

“From what I can glean it is about the following:

• In early 2010 I applied for superannuation, in the company of my partner, and in the presence of a senior official at the Ministry of Social Development.
“In July of this year, I was astonished to receive a letter from the Ministry to advise there was an error in my superannuation allowance and a request that I meet with them.

“I immediately contacted and met the area manager of MSD.

“It was unclear on both sides how the error had occurred leading to a small fortnightly overpayment.

“Suffice to say, we agreed there had been an error.

• Within 24 hours the error and overpayment had been corrected by me.
• I subsequently received a letter from the area manager thanking me for my prompt attention and confirming that the matter was concluded to the Ministry’s satisfaction.

“I am grateful to the Ministry for their courtesy and the professional and understanding way they handled this error.

“Like the Ministry I believed the matter had been put to rest.”

Newshub reports that in typical Peters fashion he refused to answer questions on the issue when it was first raised with him.

A transcript of the conversation is here.

The Social Development Ministry says it cannot comment until it gets a privacy waiver from Mr Peters.

If his past behaviour is any guide he probably won’t give it.

But on the face of it, this appears to be a mistake although it’s not clear whether it was the Ministry’s mistake of Peters’.

If it was his, it’s not a good look for a man who wants to be a Minister. If it was the Ministry’s they need to improve their systems.

Whoever made it, no-one is saying it was deliberate and Peters has paid back whatever he was overpaid.

The Taxpayers’ Union has congratulated him for doing that but adds:

But while we’re on the subject of repaying public funds – that $158,000 of taxpayers’ money NZ First illegally spent in the 2005 election, can we have that paid back too?”

He has in the past said he paid the money to charity. Whether he did or not, and there are doubts over that,  the money wasn’t owed to any charity, it was owed to the public purse from which it was wrongly taken.

UPDATE:

Newsroom reports:

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters took higher superannuation payments than he was entitled to for seven years – while living with his de facto partner – and has been required to pay back $18,000 to the state.

Peters filled out forms when he turned 65 that qualified him for the single person’s superannuation rate, which is about $60 a week higher in this case than a person would receive if declared to be living with a partner, which he was. . . 

The application form asks:

Do you live alone?
I live with my partner Go to question 32
I live with other people Go to question 28

Questions 32 – 36 ask:

What is your partner’s full name?
What is your partner’s date of birth?
Day Month Year
Is your partner:
Male Female
What is your relationship status with your partner?
Tick one of the following boxes
Married In a civil union In a relationship

Are you living at the same address as your partner?
No Yes Go to question 38
Where does your partner live?

At the very best getting the answers to those questions wrong was very, very careless.


Info sharing saves $33.7 m

July 19, 2013

Information sharing between the IRD and Ministry of Social Development has identified and stopped 3139 illegitimate benefits in just six months, Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows says.

“While it is always disappointing to see some people are willing to break the law and take money they’re not entitled to, it happens, and we have a responsibility to the taxpayer to stop it,” says Mr Borrows.

“The benefits stopped thus far were costing the taxpayer more than $33.7 million per year, money which should be going to those who really need it.”

The enhanced information sharing started earlier this year, highlighting beneficiaries whose taxable income did not match what they had declared to MSD. MSD staff reviewed each case, and where the beneficiary was earning enough income that they were no longer eligible to receive a benefit, that benefit was stopped.

It’s not all about stopping benefits. Some people were not getting as much on a benefit as they could with other help.

A further 645 clients have been assessed as being better off with other financial assistance, such as Working for Families, and helped by Work and Income to move from benefit to that assistance.

Of the 3139 cancellations, the majority were receiving the unemployment benefit (1948) or sickness benefit (559).

MSD will now look to recover all overpaid money, including seeking attachment orders to wages which should see these debts repaid faster than most benefit fraud debt.

“MSD staff are still working through the information, including a large group of clients identified as being eligible for a benefit, but having incorrectly declared their income,” says Mr Borrows.

“Fraud investigators are also looking hard at the benefits which have been stopped, and where there is evidence they deliberately defrauded from the taxpayer they can expect to be prosecuted for their crimes.”

With all this saved, and some people helped to move off benefits which is better for them and the taxpayer, it’s just a pity information sharing wasn’t introduced years ago.

Jacinda Ardern was on TV last night complaining about the policy and saying tax fraud should be targeted instead.

It shouldn’t be one or the other, it should be both.

Fraud is fraud and should be targeted wherever it happens and whoever does it.

 

>Enhanced information sharing has identified and stopped 3139 illegitimate benefits in the last six months. Unfortunately some people are willing to take money from taxpayers that they are not entitled to, but this sends them a clear message that they are not going to get away with it.


Hand-up not hand-outs

May 28, 2012

Quote of the day:

New Zealanders want a welfare system we can be proud of. The system must support people who genuinely can’t support themselves, but those who can work should be available for work and actively looking. Better resources and support to help more people off welfare dependency and into work is a clear priority. The system has failed too many New Zealanders by creating dependence and the Ministry of Social Development is moving towards a more active approach that will see greater support in helping more people off welfare and into work.

Young people are a clear priority within welfare reform. We know that those who go on welfare young tend to stay longer than others and have poorer opportunities as a result. Of real concern are the 16 and 17 year olds who become disengaged from education, employment and training and who are on a collision course with the adult welfare system. . .  Paula Bennett

This comes from the Minister’s forward to the Minsiter of Social Development’s Statement of Intent.

The rest of it is worth reading, signalling that this Minister wants real change which results in big improvements in the long-term outlook for young people who might otherwise be left to languish on benefits destined to a life of poverty.

It won’t be easy, nor will it be cheap, but it giving those who need it a hand up  is morally and financially better than giving them hand outs without any expectation that they will become independent.

Hat tip: Lindsay Mitchell


From headlines to help

January 19, 2012

You’ve got to give the left credit where it’s due – they’re very good at getting issues into the headlines and they’re doing well with their latest cause – child poverty.

Getting headlines is easy enough for what is a very emotive issue.

Translating that into practical help is much harder but at least there is growing acknowledgement that the solution isn’t as simple as giving more money.

Professor David Fergusson who directed a study which shows parental income affects how well children do as adults said:

the study showed that income inequality and behavioural issues, such as parents’ addictions, both had to be tackled to fix social problems.

“For example, increasing the income of substance-using parents may be counter-productive since it will give them more access to purchasing alcohol or drugs,” he said.

Giving parents more money is no guarantee any or all of it will be spent to the benefit of children.

It’s also important to remember it’s not just the amount of money a family earns/receives that makes a difference.

The 2008 living standards survey  found that:

  • the hardship rate for sole parent families is around 4 times that for those in two parent families (39% and 11% respectively)
  • beneficiary families with dependent children have a hardship rate of around 5 times that for working families with children (51% and 11% respectively)
  • sole parent families in work have a hardship rate (20%) well below that for sole parent beneficiary families (54%)
  • Maori and Pacific people have hardship rates some 2 to 3 times that of those in the European or Other ethnic groups
  • families with 4 or more children have higher hardship rates (27%) than those with 1-2 children (17%)
 This shows that money, or lack of it, is not the only factor which contributes to hardship.What they do with it, the number of children, relationship break downs, ethnicity and income source also make a difference.
Keeping poverty in the headlines will raise awareness  but it won’t by itself do anything to address any of those.

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