Sunday, July 3, 2016
Mike Butler: Probing Whanau Ora trough
However, John Tamihere , the chief executive of Whanau Ora commissioning agency Te Pou Matakana, which hands out the money, disagrees.
He said he and Te Pou Matakana chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait had provided a full briefing to the Labour caucus last year.
The best that Maori Development Minister, Te Ururoa Flavell, could say was that he had talked to families who told him Whanau Ora had made a real difference in their lives.
Last year, Auditor General Lyn Provost said it was difficult to work out what the scheme has achieved while noting that in the first four years $40-million was swallowed up in administration.
Earlier, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters found evidence of how the trough has been accessed.
He said that 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”. (2).
The Dominion Post newspaper revealed how whanau contracts operated.
One $5000 contract between Te Puni Kokiri and an unnamed Hawke’s Bay whanau of 20 members said that a hui to finalise “spiritual balance” and “family development” would pay $500 each for two facilitators, $400 for a venue, $1000 for a hangi, $600 for a chef, a $500 administration fee, $300 for travel, and $1200 for resources. The agreement was signed on January 12, 2012, with $4000 paid up front in April. The final $1000 would be paid when the whanau plans were completed at the end of June. (3)
The criminal underbelly spotted an opportunity in Whanau Ora.
Dunedin Mongrel Mob members posing as the We Against Violence charitable trust were among 10 arrested in May 2012 after $100,000 worth of cannabis was seized, and misuse of government funding was alleged.
Intercepted phone calls showed that gangs regarded Whanau Ora as a model to access funding. One Dunedin person jailed for four years for dishonestly converting $20,000 of trust money, conspiring to sell cannabis and possessing cannabis for supply. (4)
These three examples give an indication of where nearly $300-million has gone since 2010. Here are the appropriations over seven years:
Budget 2010 - $29m
Budget 2011 – $43m
Budget 2012 – $49m
Budget 2013 – $53m
Budget 2014 – $52m
Budget 2015 – $54m
Budget 2016 – $73m
Whanau Ora was intended to help welfare recipients navigate their way around a fragmented social services set-up.
The latest benefit data sheets show that Maori demand for jobseeker support has increased every year since 2011 and is ahead of increases by Pacific Island and other ethnicities while such demand from all others has decreased. (5)
Maori demand for sole-parent support has decreased but not as much as decreases in such demand from all others. Demand by Pacific Island and other ethnicities show small increases. (6)
However, in the absence of any public report, the effect of the Whanau Ora scheme remains unknown, with remaining suspicion that it is the biggest trough in living memory.
One would expect a prudent Minister of Finance to expect some sort of accountability for this massive outflow of funds.
Surely Bill English would question the apparent doling out of funds for Maori families to get together – at $5000 a party.
1.Whanau Ora not living up to promise, http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/te-manu-korihi/307598/agency-defends-whanau-ora-to-labour-mps
2. Peters keeps up attack on Whanau Ora payouts, The Dominion Post, May 31, 2012.
3. Thousands spent of whanau gatherings, The Dominion Post, April 9, 2012.
4. Whanau Ora money used by gang, Stuff, November 15, 2012. http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7954204/Whanau-Ora-money-used-by-gang
5.Jobseeker support March 2016 quarter https://www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/publications-resources/statistics/benefit/latest-quarterly-results/jobseeker-support.html
6. Sole parent support March 2016 quarter https://www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/publications-resources/statistics/benefit/latest-quarterly-results/sole-parent-support
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