Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hoist by their own petard

In 2008, National swept to power on a platform of being a better financial manager and eliminating government "waste". Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have turned out that way. A report on 3 News last night investigated the government's "Community max" scheme - a high profile scheme which has been Paula Bennett's stock answer when asked "what are you doing about unemployment". What it found was disturbing: hundreds of thousands of dollars spent with poor oversight and no tangible results. A "community garden" which produced a single pumpkin. A scenic reserve maintenance scheme which seems not to have had any effect whatsoever. A scheme to sew linen for local marae which turned into one altering clothes from second-hand shops. None of these schemes did what they were paid to do. And yet MSD kept handing over the money.

On one level, this is irrelevant. As the Dim-Post points out, if the purpose of the scheme is to provide a fiscal stimulus, then you could just give money to people for nothing, or pay them to dig holes (or hide the money in holes and let them dig it up). But you get a bigger dividend from such stimulus when you pay people to produce something useful, such as basic infrastructure. This doesn't seemed to have happened in this case.

But the real problem here is one of oversight. Paula Bennett - and by extension the entire government - has shown a basic lack of care here with public money. There is an expectation in this country that when the government pays someone to do something, they should bloody well do it, and there should be people checking that they do it (and not e.g. deciding to do something else, or just take a holiday in the Cooks). They shouldn't just ignore it, then lie to us about what is happening while trying to bury the evidence (oh yes - as usual Bennett did her utmost to prevent any oversight via the OIA, a disturbing habit with that Minister).

And Community Max was a small scheme. If this is how National manages our money, imagine what will happen when they start throwing around hundreds of millions of dollars through Whanau Ora.