Dear old Tariana has been badly blindsided by the rambunctious Winston Peters.
Actually, Paula took the first hit at question time in Parliament yesterday.
She took it when Peters raised a ruckus over a failure – he said – to do background checks before public money was dished out to fund an outfit with an outlandishly long name, Te Roopu Whakaruruhau o Nga Wahine Maori Women’s Refuge.
But his real target was the whanau ora fund, which is Tariana’s baby.
He had good reason to link the money with the whanau ora programme, although Tariana seems adamant the money is not coming from Te Puni Kokiri and – if Alf understands her position – has nothing to do with whanau ora.
Maybe the words “whana ora” are being wrongly bandied around.
Family and Community Services is a service of the Social Development Ministry.
Its on-line records for 2010 grants (here) and 2011 grants (here) bring the words “whanau ora” into the picture.
When the money was dished out in 2010, it was called the Family Violence Whānau Ora Fund.
Two million dollars was awarded from the Family Violence Whānau Ora Fund in 2010. The fund is for providers that focus on families as a whole, supporting those that are experiencing, or have experienced family violence, and helping them to resolve their issues as a family over time, rather than on an individual basis.
88 applications were received valued at $8,128,114.
The total amount of funding available was $2,000,000.
27 applicants (31%) were successful in receiving funding.
The total amount granted was $1,999,797.
The average grant amount was $74,066.
Te Roopu Whakaruruhau O Nga Wahine Maori Inc did better than average with a grant of $80,000.
The words “whanau ora” have gone from the heading at the top of the funding report for 2011/12.
It simply says
Family-Centred Services funding awarded for 2011/12
The text immediately below this says –
Applications for funding under the Family-Centred Services Fund for the 2011/2012 financial year opened on 1 April 2011 and closed 29 April 2011. A total of $13.335 million of funding is available for the 2011/2012 year.
But wait. A table further down the report is headed:
Family Violence Whānau Ora Fund
The text says
This table shows the funding allocated for the 2011/2012 year, for the fund previously called Family Violence Whanau Ora.
No matter what it is or was called, the fund dished out another $80,000 to Te Roopu Whakaruruhau O Nga Wahine Maori Inc
In the circumstances, Peters could be forgiven for linking the funding with Tariana’s baby.
And so he had a grand time at Question Time in Parliament yesterday.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why should the hard-earning and taxpaying public believe anything they have just heard from the Minister, in respect of her National and Māori Party defence of Whānau Ora as an approach, on the projected expenditure of $174 million of hard-earned taxpayers’ money—some of which is in this audit here—when many providers are using it to pork-barrel, and rort, and commit fraud, without delivering services to the people in need?
As noted earlier, Paula answered on Tariana’s behalf.
But Tariana bounced back later in the day to accuse Peters of again demonstrating his love for political theatre “by creating a great melodrama out of a series of unproven facts…”
Mr Peters had cast doubt on the value of Whanau Ora with his question about the spending of “$174 million of hard-earned taxpayers’ money-some …(etc)”.
“Problem is – and it’s a problem for Mr Peters – the organisation he referred to in the House today has never received any funding from Te Puni Kokiri; it is not part of a Whanau Ora Collective – and in actual fact in the audit he referred to there was no mention of Whanau Ora.
“Mr Peters makes allegations at his whim about Whanau Ora – and deserves to be challenged about the veracity of these claims. Sadly his attempts to undermine Whanau Ora will not work because there is no truth in these claims.
Tariana pointed out that the allegations around the financial position of the organisation Peters named should be taken up with the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges and the Ministry of Social Development, which has responsibility for operational funding for some of the work of the women’s refuge movement.
“I’m happy to be held to account for the decisions I take, but I won’t stand by and let anyone try and discredit me or my officials with the wild allegations we have seen today. It is a very sad day in politics when grandstanding Winston never lets the truth get in the way of a good story.”
Whee. The gloves were off.
And Alf does relish a political scrap when it does not involve National Party members (although he can relish the scrap when Nats are involved, too, on occasion).
He would not want to be the boss of the Social Welfare Ministry this morning, because – according to an NZ Herald account of the ruckus – Tariana will be gunning for him.
Associate Minister for Social Development Tariana Turia wants answers from her officials after she wasn’t told about financial problems facing a Palmerston North-based Women’s Refuge.
The Herald goes on to say an independent audit found the refuge made a loss of $109,000 for the June 30, 2011 financial year.
Fair to say, the source of this information is the aforementioned rambunctious Winston Peters.
“Under a section labelled ‘Fraud’, the auditors said they had identified what they called ‘unauthorised transactions’ and recommended the introduction of controls for the ‘prevention and detection of fraud’,” Mr Peters said in a statement.
He said the auditors also found issues with the payment of bonuses and other personal costs such as fines, and the ineffective control over the employment of staff.
It is also alleged the refuge had run up a $75,000 debt with the tax department for the non-payment of GST and PAYE, and its payroll was greater than its annual income.
“The auditors said factors such as negative equity and working capital, and ‘a payroll that is greater than annual income’, raised ‘concerns regarding the financial performance of the Roopu [refuge]’,” Mr Peters said.
On the strength of this, Peters says it is blindingly obvious that background checks on the refuge were either not carried out or ignored before the Government approved funding to the refuge.
The Herald goes on to quote Tariana, as our Associate Minister for Social Development, on the strength of what she told Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report programme.
Most important, she had no idea about the extent of the problems facing the service.
“It is the first time I have seen the audit report and I was completely unaware of the significance of the issues that have been highlighted in it.”
She said Family and Community Services had not informed her of any issues in meetings she held with them.
Mrs Turia said she would ask agency head Murray Edridge to explain why she was not advised.
But she should also ask Edridge about the way his ministry has been branding the money dished out to the women’s refuges.
Why was it the Family Violence Whānau Ora Fund in 2010 but not in 2011?