Sorry, Sonny, but the Auditor-General won’t be apologising for her whanau ora criticism

Hmm..if the whanau's in here, what has happened to the ora?

Hmm .. the rest of the money must be back with the administrators. 

Uh, oh. That’s not like Lyn, Alf thought when he heard she had agreed to do some apologising.

He is sure she would apologise if she got something wrong, of course.

But she wouldn’t be saying sorry – surely – just because somebody had been offended by something she said.

In this case it sounded like the apology indeed was about to be delivered because somebody had taken offence.

The Lyn being talked about in this post is Lyn Provost, Auditor-General and someone with whom Alf has a nodding acquaintance.

The offended party is Sonny Tau, who apparently was affronted by comments she made when criticising the amount of Whanau Ora funding spent on administration.

According to this Radio NZ report on Saturday:

She told MPs out of the $137 million in funding the scheme has had, 20 percent had gone on administration.

Mr Tau said the comments were unfortunate and he believed the Auditor General was coming to an iwi leaders meeting to apologise personally.

Her remarks were unfortunate?

How so?

Let’s recall what she told a select committee last month, when her remarks resulted in this Radio NZ report: 

The way in which Whānau Ora has been run in its first four years has come in for heavy criticism from the public spending watchdog, and officials at Te Puni Kōkiri – the Ministry of Māori Development – are getting most of the blame.

Critics of the kaupapa Māori welfare initiative, from politicians to providers, have long held the view that the ministry was not a good manager of the programme.

After leaving Parliament, even the politician who implemented the policy, Tariana Turia, took aim at the administrator, saying the project was poorly handled and there was substantial underspending.

Some of those niggling doubts have been backed up in a comprehensive assessment by the Auditor-General.

Yep. Dear old Tariana was not too happy with the admin side of things, and this programme  – let’s not forget – was her baby.

But Lyn’s problems started with her efforts to get to grips with the policy’s objective:

Firstly, the office complained that it could not get a consistent explanation of the aims of the initiatives in Whānau Ora from government agencies or other people its spoke to.

“So far, the situation has been unclear and confusing to many of the public entities and whānau,” its report said.

Then the report expressed concerns about how Te Puni Kōkiri controlled the purse strings.

“During the first four years, total spending on Whānau Ora was $137.6 million. Delays in spending meant that some of the funds originally intended for whānau and providers did not reach them.

“Nearly a third of the total spending was on administration.”

Auditor General Lyn Provost said: “In my view, Te Puni Kōkiri could have spent a greater proportion of funds on those people – whānau and providers – who Whānau Ora was meant to help”.

Alf has highlighted the bit about spending on admin.

It accounted (in this earlier report) for nearly a third of the total spending.

In the more recent weekend report, the one in which Sonny is talking about expecting an apology, this had been trimmed to 20 per cent.

What Sonny and his mates should be welcoming, of course, is that Lyn said Whānau Ora had been a success for many families.

“For example, some whānau are working towards getting their young people living and working on their ancestral land. The government spending to achieve this has been small, but the importance for the whānau is significant.”

She seemed to be aware that the initiative had been under a bright spotlight since its launch, attracting pointed criticism from New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

Ms Provost said, “I have no doubt that some commentators will make light of the successes described in this report and make much of the criticisms.

“However, an innovative idea should not be abandoned just because of implementation problems. I earnestly hope that those involved with the next phase of Whānau Ora are able to take my criticisms on board and learn from them”.

Maybe Sonny didn’t get that far.

At the weekend he said:

“The comments were unfortunate and I think that at our iwi chair’s meeting they’re coming to apologise for that report…. for comments that were wrongly made, without a research background.”


This might be so if Lyn had got her facts wrong but it seems as if Sonny is sounding off about her “comments” (which are opinions) and her lack of “a research background” (which is a curious indictment of an Audit Office that has lots of staff to do the research and crunch the numbers).

He said that 20 percent spent on administration was not a big fee.

This percentage does not square with the number highlighted above.

Whether it’s big or small comes into the “comment” department.

Mr Tau said feedback from iwi was that funding was getting to areas it was needed in.

So Sonny and Lyn are at odds over whether the money is going where it should go.

Even so, there is nothing too vexing (Alf would have thought) in what Lyn said.

This being so he was not surprised to learn in the latest Radio NZ report:  

The Auditor-General will not be apologising for comments she made about spending on the Whanau Ora programme.

Nor was he surprised to learn that a number somewhat higher than 20 per cent was being used:

In a report tabled in Parliament on 5 May, Lyn Provost said Whanau Ora’s administration was cumbersome and unusual.

She said in her report that 31 percent of $137.6 million in funding had gone to administration.

Maori leader Sonny Tau told Radio New Zealand the comments were unfortunate and he believed the Auditor-General was coming to an iwi leaders meeting to apologise personally.

However, Ms Provost told Radio New Zealand today she will not apologise, but is keen to discuss and help with understanding the work of the Office of the Auditor-General.

She has accepted an invitation to meet with the Iwi Chairs Forum to discuss this.

That’s the Lyn with whom Alf is acquainted.

She will go along and discuss the report.

Dunno if Sonny feels in any way he might be guilty of “comments that were wrongly made, without a research background.”

Probably not.

One Response to Sorry, Sonny, but the Auditor-General won’t be apologising for her whanau ora criticism

  1. Barry says:

    She told the truth, so she’s not apologising – good for her!

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