[Sitting date: 27 June 2012. Volume:681;Page:3409. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the
Associate Minister for Social Development: Is she confident that all providers contracted through the Family-Centred Services Fund are meeting the appropriate financial and governance standards?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development) on behalf of the
Hon Tariana Turia (Associate Minister for Social Development): Mr Speaker—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, the associate.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Nice to see you. I am confident that the Ministry of Social Development has good financial and contract management systems in place, and that any problems would be identified and dealt with appropriately.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If she became aware of a provider not meeting the appropriate financial and governance standards, and making a loss of $109,000, for example, would she direct her officials to undertake a full and thorough inquiry before advancing any further moneys to that provider?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The Ministry of Social Development contracts to over 2,300 providers across New Zealand, which is equivalent to about 4,300 contracts. I am confident that the systems are in place to accurately monitor that. Occasionally, we find things that have gone wrong, and where that is I expect it to take appropriate action.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the Minister was aware that a provider was guilty of fraud, financial mismanagement, and personal rorts, then why did Te Roopu
Whakaruruhau o ngā Wāhine Māori Inc. of Palmerston North have its $80,000 contract with the Ministry of Social Development renewed for a further 3 years until June 2015?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am not aware of the funding of that particular organisation, but what I can say is that when there are cases of alleged fraud, the ministry goes in, it audits, and it seeks out the best advice that it can. Actually, situations change over time, but we do expect high standards and we expect the ministry to hold organisations to high standards.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can any of that hold true when the auditor of that provider submitted an audit alleging fraud, financial mismanagement, and personal rorts; why, then, did she as Minister not step in and stop this contract, instead of extending it for a further 3 years, until 2015?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I certainly have not seen evidence of fraud that is coming through from that organisation. There may be other information that I am not aware of at this time that might have come through. But, actually, extending contracts in general out by 3 years has been a very positive step for those organisations, and one that has been embraced, because it has meant that they can continue to do the work that they do with families when they need to.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise to the right honourable gentleman for interrupting. As the Minister is answering on behalf of another Minister, can we just ask her to be absolutely clear that when she says “I have not seen such documents.” she is saying that Tariana Turia has not seen such documents?
Mr SPEAKER: The member makes a perfectly valid point that the Minister is answering on behalf of the Associate Minister, and that should be made clear in the answers. If the Minister wishes to clarify anything, she is welcome to.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and thank you to the Opposition; I think that is a really fair point. To the best of, certainly, the Associate Minister’s knowledge, she has not seen anything—nothing that I was briefed on in the time to get ready for this question.
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?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: In all fairness, if I sound a little hesitant, it is because at times I struggle to believe some of the things that the member is saying. [Interruption] Well, no, he—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. Let me politely suggest to the Minister answering the question: the Minister has told the House that she does not have the information to be able to answer the right honourable gentleman’s questions with certainty; if she does not have the information to answer with certainty, she should not then turn round and abuse the questioner. That is not on. Certainly, if a Minister has the information and can refute what the questioner is asking, then no problem at all. But if, on the one hand, a Minister is saying “I don’t have the information to be able to answer that question with clarity.”, then is alleging that the member has got things wrong, that is not on. If the Minister knows sufficient to do that, she should answer the question. You cannot have it both ways.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, it was just the way that the member started his question was “Why should anyone believe …”, and I was merely reflecting that back to the member. What I am saying is that, at the end of the day, I would need to see
evidence of that fraud, and if I do, then I will expect the department to take the appropriate action.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why did the Minister cast aspersions on a questioner who is holding an old audit report from December last year into this provider, which apparently she has not seen, yet under the National - Māori Party Whānau Ora approach a so-called Māori women’s refuge in Palmerston North failed to even take in women over Christmas and New Year—last Christmas and New Year, that is—and referred them down the road to a non-Māori provider of women’s refuge services? Why is she defending that?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am not defending that. I would be interested in seeing what that information is, so that we can get it to the department so that appropriate action can be taken, if necessary.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Is this a point of order?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is a point of order. And I will say it slowly, for the
Dominion Post:it is a point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave, in the interests of justice and knowledge, to table the audit from the auditor on this collective, also the page from the Family-Centred Services Fund that says it got the money to the June 2015 year, and also a contract mapping that says it got the money hitherto, which justifies everything said in the question. Thank you very much.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those three documents. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.