Being involved in political activity makes it tempting to comment on each and every movement in the political dimension. Early on, the Taxpayers’ Union decided that it would focus on instances of waste and extravagance in central and local government spending, and on cases where spending had clearly not achieved its purpose.
Hence we criticised Tony Marriott of the Christchurch City Council for charging a visit to Hooters’ Bar to his council funded credit card. And we decried Transpower for spending over a million dollars on a swept up cafeteria in its building for staff when there are plenty of cafes within easy walking distance.
We also decided that, generally speaking, we would not go after what politicians’ poor performance, bad decisions, and questionable judgements unless there were circumstances to justify our intervention. Much of that is partisan debate and we were simply not going to get involved in every public issue, particularly when there were plenty of others making the same points as we would make.
Yes, that makes us look selective in our criticism, but we have taken on Peter Dunne over the cost of passports, and Len Brown over Auckland’s debt burden. We were also quick to point out that Hekia Parata’s inquiry into the Te Kohanga Reo National Trust asked questions about the wrong body, but we have stood back from the row over Judith Collin’s trip to China.
In the first matter large sums of public money are involved and the misuse of funds is alleged. In the second, the cost of the Collins trip is not large, and her “crime” is not about the misuse of money. It may be a fine distinction, particularly for those who wish to attack us for existing at all, but it is a real one.
Contributors to our blog pages and tip line are constantly urging us to get involved in issues, whether it’s the funding of programmes promoting recreation and sport, the operation of the ACC scheme, the worth of the defence forces, or whatever else is on their minds. We would love to be able to question policy matters, and to test whether a wide range of policies actually deliver on their objectives and represent value for taxpayers’ money.
It’s early days. We only launched in October and we are still reliant to a large degree on volunteer time. Because of that we’re focused on exposing instances of clearly bad, mad and wasted spending - until we have built up our resources to do more. Our record shows that we’re not favouring one party or another. For example, our exposé of the DOC IT cost blowout is precisely why we were established.
Waste and poor spending are our targets, not people and or partisanship.
Chair, New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union
Stuff has just reported:
BusinessNZ rejects training scheme attacks
Business NZ has hit back at ACC Minister Judith Collins over her attacks on an ACC-funded health and safety training programme run by Business NZ, the Council Of Trade Unions and a private provider.
ACC announced this week that the $1.5 million a year programme would be canned at the end of of 2014 because it was not providing value for money.
Collins had joined criticism of the scheme, which has run since 2003, describing it as a cosy arrangement that had the hallmarks of a scam and a rort.
Business NZ today broke its silence on the issue, with a press release quoting its chief executive, Phil O'Reilly.
"For the record, Business NZ utterly rejects mistaken allegations made by lobbyist Jordan Williams since repeated by the ACC minister," O'Reilly said.
"The BusinessNZ family's involvement has been completely ethical at all times, and I am confident that this is also the case with the involvement of the CTU and Impac Services."
The CTU has also strongly rejected the criticisms by Collins and Williams.
O'Reilly said it was "unfortunate that important debate on workplace safety has been undermined by intemperate media comment".
Media reporting of uninformed assumptions by Williams appeared to have led to the minister's comments, O'Reilly said. continue reading...
Business NZ’s reaction ignores the fact that the criticisms we've highlighted are from ACC’s own experts - all the Taxpayers’ Union did was bring them to the public’s attention. We made all of the material available online and before we went public we checked our facts with people within the industry. We stand by our statements.
Business NZ should focus on rebutting the criticism that it has accepted millions of dollars from ACC that did little, if anything, to improve workplace safety. Rather than getting personal Mr O’Rielly could tell us what exactly is ‘mistaken’. All we’ve done is highlight ACC’s expert analysis which states that, even with optimistic assumptions, 84 cents per dollar spent was wasted.
To blame us for the Minister labelling the Business NZ scheme 'cosy' and 'a scam' is flattering, but vastly exaggerates the influence of the Taxpayers’ Union.
Yesterday it looked like the Taxpayers' Union struck up it's first win, with ACC announcing that it would scrap the health and safety training scheme which has cost levy holders $19million to date, with 84 cents per dollar being wasted (even with optimistic assumptions).
This morning we read the small print...
The contracts released to the Taxpayers' Union on 5 December note that the ending date is 31 December 2013.
Despite the ACC telling media yesterday that it decided 'late last year' to can the programme, we learned this morning that the contracts were renewed in December. The end date is now 31 December 2014.
It appears that ACC only changed its tune since the Taxpayers' Union publicly exposed the rort.
Remember, it’s not the Taxpayers’ Union who labelled the training scheme a waste of money, it’s ACC’s own experts. Telling the public that they will scrap the scheme but waiting for the new contracts to expire is not good enough. They conveniently failed to mention that the contracts have just been renewed...
The Taxpayers’ Union is also backing the Minister for ACC’s reported comments that Business NZ and the CTU should pay the wasted money back to ACC. With such clear evidence that the money did little if anything to improve workplace safety, we think Business NZ and the CTU are morally obliged to stop wasting this money and compensate ACC levy payers.
UPDATE: We've been told that the rolled over contract is 'transitional' and reduces the amounts paid to the CTU and Business NZ. We are trying to confirm this with ACC and have requested the documentation.
Tonight's TV news coverage of the corporate and union welfare exposed earlier today.
The documents, available and summarised below show ACC knew that millions paid to Business NZ and the CTU to provide health and safety training did little, if anything, to reduce workplace accidents.
Recent ACC analysis concludes that, even with optimistic assumptions, for every dollar spent on the training 84 cents is wasted.
A 2013 briefing to the Minister for ACC, Judith Collins, states that the CTU has found it “challenging” to meet its performance obligations even though it has been contracted for service since 2003.
The documents show that Business NZ and the CTU worked together with ACC to create the venture and doubts about the value of the scheme have existed since at least 2008.
It appears that Business NZ and the CTU have created a nice little earner for themselves. But we think it's a disgraceful example of big corporate and union welfare chewing through taxpayer cash. We think members of Business NZ and the CTU should be asking hard questions of their respective management teams.
Even the report in 2008 shows that that whole scheme was achieving little more than ‘engagement’. While ACC, Business NZ and the CTU must have known the scheme was worthless, they all allowed further millions to be spent.
This is the worst example of government waste the Taxpayers’ Union has seen to date. It involves two quasi-political organisations from the left and the right complacent in receiving taxpayer funds, likely knowing that the benefit was a small fraction of the amount being spent.
The Taxpayers' Union is calling on Ms Collins to put an end to this hand out to Business NZ and the CTU.
Click "continue reading" for more information, including the full material obtained by the Taxpayers' Union under the Official Information Act.