Thursday, June 17, 2010

Smelling worse

The government's dealings with the Pacific Economic Development Agency, a private company run by a National Party supporter which was awarded $4.8 million in a no-bid contract in the Budget, were smelling pretty bad already. But now they're smelling worse. It turns out that the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs warned its Minister against the deal, advising that PEDA was "untested, unproven, and a significant failure risk":

It said the proposal for funding, which was uncontested, by Peda to the Finance Minister briefly outlined five projects and was scant on detail about how money would be spent.
But from yesterday's answers in the House, it seems they were warning the wrong person. The decision to allocate the money seems not to have been taken by the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, Georgina te Heuheu, but by the Minister of Finance, Bill English, who met with a cabal of PEDA representatives and National Party supporters shortly after the 2008 election. So English sidelined a Minister in her own portfolio in order to hand out money to National's mates.

This is not the way things are done in New Zealand. If the government wants to contract a private agency to improve outcomes for Pacific Peoples, it should run a transparent and competitive tender process. That way we get value for money and we can see that the contract is assigned on merit. The failure to follow this process makes the contract look like a shabby deal by National to enrich its mates and pay them back for their support. And that is simply corrupt.