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In the Media

March 20, 2014

Newstalk ZB on Kohanga Reo allegations

Taxpayers' Union unimpressed with Kohanga inquiry Newstalk ZB 19/3/2014

The Taxpayers' Union can't comprehend how a report into allegations of misspending at the Kohanga Reo Trust didn't look in the right place.
Last night Hekia Parata released a report that found the Trust hadn't misused public money.
But now the Education Minister's asked the Serious Fraud Office to look at the activities of the Trust's subsidiary company, Te Pataka Ohanga.
Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams told Larry Williams says millions of dollars is at stake.
"From the beginning it was obvious that the EY report wasn't going to turn up anything.
"It was looking in the wrong direction. Everyone knew that these allegations were in the subsidiary company."


Larry Williams, Newstalk ZB Drive
The Taxpayers' Union Executive Director also joined Larry Williams on Newstalk ZB's drive show to discuss the referral of the Te Kohanga Reo National Trust to the Serious Fraud Office.



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March 19, 2014

Press coverage of Kohanga Reo probe

NBR logoKohanga Reo probe a whitewash - Taxpayers' Union The National Business Review - 19/03/2014

The late night press conference and mischaracterisation of the report into the independent audit into Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust  by cabinet  ministers involved is shameful, Taxpayers Union executive director Jordan Williams says.

"The Ernst Young review did not even look at the key allegations at Te Pataka Ohanga. It’s not vindication, it’s a whitewash.”  Read more.


Dominion Post logo

Kohanga inquiry 'whitewash' Dominion Post - 19/03/2014

The Government's audit of the Te Kohanga Reo National Trust has been slammed as a "whitewash" by right-wing lobby group the Taxpayers Union.

The comments come as the Government dodged questions about allegations of misspending by a company linked to kohanga reo after a media conference last night in which it said the organisation had been cleared - before admitting none of the claims sparking its inquiry were investigated. Read more.


Also: John Drinnan: Maori TV flak now hitting Govt NZ Herald - 19/03/2014

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March 19, 2014

Kohanga Reo cont.

New Kohanga Reo claims spark SFO call - 19/03/2014

Kohanga Reo audit a ‘whitewash'
Parata said it was a private organisation so outside the Government's scope - although it was later confirmed TPO ultimately received its funding through the Ministry of Education.
Jordan Williams, executive director of the Taxpayers' Union, today called the late-night press conference and "mischaracterisation" of the report "shameful" as it ignored the key allegations around the personal use of company credit cards.
"The Ernst Young review did not even look at the key allegations at Te Pataka Ohanga," he said.
"It's not vindication, it's a whitewash."
Williams asked what other publicly funded entity could avoid audit scrutiny by creating a subsidiary company.
"If this attitude was the norm, the public audit process would be meaningless," he said.
"Instead of getting to the bottom of the allegations, Hekia Parata and Dr Pita Sharples have chosen to turn a blind eye to what are serious allegations."
Labour's Nanaia Mahuta said given the seriousness of the allegations it was "inadequate" for Parata to say she had no oversight of TPO.
"The reality is that public monies are transferred from the Kohanga Reo Trust to Te Pataka Ohanga and there should be a line of sight to ensure that the money is spent properly and that there's a level of transparency and accountability for that.” Read more.

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March 10, 2014

NBR reports on Taxpayer's Union backing performance pay for MPs

Greens' MP pay policy on the money - Taxpayers' Union The National Business Review - 09/03/2014
In a rare alignment, the Taxpayers' Union and the Green Party are on the same page.
The right wing lobby group likes the Greens' new policy for performance pay for MPs - up to a point.
Earlier today, the Greens launched a new policy to link MPs' salaries to the median income, to make sure that MPs' salaries are part of the solution to rising inequality, rather than part of the problem.
Under this policy, MPs salaries would increase or decrease by the same dollar amount that the median individual income increases or decreases.
Rather than the current annual review carried out by the Remuneration Authority that sets MPs' salaries, the Remuneration Authority would be required to apply the annual change in median individual income supplied by Statistics New Zealand.
"The Green Party thinks that MPs' salary increases or decreases should be directly linked to the movement in the incomes of middle New Zealand," Green co-leader Russel Norman said.
Responding to the announcement, Taxpayer's Union executive director Jordan Williams said, "Finally a political party is recognising the need to tie MPs' pay to the country's performance. While we would prefer MPs' pay to reflect changes in GDP, the policy is a step in the right direction."
Over time, the Green's policy would reduce MPs' pay relative to the average taxpayer who foots the bill, Mr [Williams] said.
"It would also mean MPs' pay would reduce if household incomes do. It would remove the effective ratchet clause currently in place. We welcome that aspect."

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March 02, 2014

Sunday Star Times: Taxman binges $225m on advisors

The Sunday Star Times has revealed that IRD has spent more than $225 million on consultants over the past five years. The amount includes $52 million in the past financial year alone. Easy compliance with the tax code is not promising when even IRD need to spend so much on experts to get things right.

The IRD is also continuing with an IT project which is estimated to cost at least $1 billion.

Taxman binges $225m on advisors Sunday Star Times 02/03/2014

... the Taxpayers' Union lobby group, also blasted the spending.
He said the IRD required the $1b IT upgrade as a by-product of the nation's "convoluted" tax system.
"The facts are if you have a simple, less complex tax system you don't require a $1b computer system to run it," Williams said. "That consultancy [cost], if ever there was an argument for a fairer, simpler tax system, it is that." Read more.

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February 25, 2014

Christchurch Press on Dunendin deal exposed by the Taxpayers' Union

Today's Christchurch Press devotes it's editorial to the 'gentleman's agreement' between former Labour MP Pete Hodgson and Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull exposed by the Taxpayers' Union earlier this week.

Editorial: Gentlemen sign contracts too - Christchurch Press 25/02/2014

The "gentlemen's agreement" is an old-fashioned notion, almost to the point of quaintness. It suggests that a gentleman's word is as good as his bond, and a handshake as binding as a written contract.
Of course, it belonged to a time when women were not expected to worry themselves with business matters, avoiding the possibility that one of the gentlemen involved might actually be a lady. But there are better reasons than that for not relying on such handshake deals in the modern age, particularly for the spending of public money.
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull is defending the agreement under which former Dunedin North MP Pete Hodgson was paid by Cull's council to lobby the Government to retain the core functions of AgResearch at Invermay. Hodgson was paid $3400 for duties which included advocating on the council's behalf, contributing to a letter to Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and writing a 10-page report for the board of AgResearch.
The council says that Cull was its main point of contact with Hodgson, but it could not locate a single email, contract or any other document relating to the agreement. Cull said: "I could describe it as a gentleman's way of doing business in the south."
There is no reason to believe that Cull and Hodgson are anything other than honest gentlemen, but the geographic accident that also gives them "southern man" status should not put them above the usual requirements by which local government business is conducted. Read more.


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February 24, 2014

Coverage of Dunedin lobbying deal exposé

Dunedin mayor defends MP deal - Sunday Star Times 23/02/2014

Dunedin Dave Cull is defending a "gentleman's" agreement which saw a former MP paid $3400 for lobbying following a handshake deal.
Documents released under the Official Information Act reveal that former Dunedin North MP Pete Hodgson was paid by the council to lobby the Government not to strip core functions of Ag Research Limited from Invermay, near Dunedin.
The council said the main point of contact for the deal with Hodgson was Cull, but could not locate a single email, contract or any other document relating to the agreement. Hodgson had provided "lobbying and advocating" on behalf of council, and that he had "contributed" to a letter to Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and a submission written to the board of Ag Research.
"Mr Hodgson did not provide any reports relating to his services," governance support officer Grace Ockwell said.
Cull, a former TV personality, denied personally hiring Hodgson, but defended the deal. "I could describe it as a gentleman's way of doing business in the south," Cull said. He would be uncomfortable if the council always negotiated contracts verbally, but in this instance he was not concerned.
Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams questioned whether the spending was appropriate.
"Though it's a small amount, it suggests that Dunedin Council isn't applying the most basic internal controls," Williams said. What other government agency spends $3400 without any documentation?"
He added that without further explanation the union questioned whether the Auditor General should get involved.
"No wonder this council has a history of financial troubles, they're running it like a cake stall."
Hodgson, who represented Dunedin North as an MP for 21 years up until 2011, said he wrote the council's 10-page submission to Ag Research, charging the council less than he would usually, and had continued to work for it free of charge.
As a former Minister of Research, Science and Technology he believed he was better placed than anyone to lobby on behalf of the council.
"I'm sorry if it sounds like me blowing my own trumpet but there is no one else in the country who knows as much about this issue as me," Hodgson said.
"The fact that it wasn't written up in any contract would probably reflect their trust in me."