Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Not hidden

The government today released the results of its inquiry into whether the shortfall in ACC funding should have been disclosed in the Pre-Election Fiscal Update. The report [PDF] concludes that it should have, as while it was not under active consideration by Ministers, the costs arose from statutory obligations and so were reasonably certain. But while Bill English's press release accuses former Finance Minister Michael Cullen and former ACC Minister Maryann Street of "hiding" the shortfall, the report itself does nothing of the sort. Instead, it concludes that the non-disclosure was primarily attributable to:

Treasury’s interpretation of the PFA requirements related to the inclusion of Fiscal Risks in the economic and fiscal forecasts contained in the PREFU that put onus on the fact that Cabinet was yet to make decisions on adjustments to appropriations necessary to fund the Non-earners’ Account rather than the policy decisions already made by Government and embodied in statute, regulation, and requirements communicated to the ACC regarding its management and funding of the Non-earners’ Account and the Treatment Injury Account that resulted in the funding shortfall.
The process used for updating vote:ACC and a silo-mentality among officials are also blamed as contributing factors. But the Ministers themselves are not. In fact, their actions were of such little interest that the inquiry did not even bother speaking to them. So what's English's basis for blaming them? Simply a petty desire to tarnish the actions of his predecessor. It's unseemly, and you'd expect a finance minister to have bigger things on his mind in the middle of a recession.