Thursday, June 02, 2016

National refuses to investigate its odious homelessness debt

How much odious debt do beneficiaries "owe" WINZ for emergency housing (or, alternatively, for WINZ failing to do its job properly)? A lot of people have been asking that question since learning of this particular scam. But conveniently, the Minister of Social Development says that its just too much work to find out:

I am advised that the Ministry is unable to breakdown recoverable debt where it is specifically related to the provision of Emergency Housing. This information is held on individual files, and substantial collation would be required to provide this information. I am not willing to commit the resources required to respond to this question.

And yet, she knows it will have "big financial implications" for WINZ. Its a perfect example of how refusing to store information properly reduces accountability and enables politicians to just make shit up as they go along.

But this debt is odious debt, gouged out of beneficiaries who don't have a choice, at inflated rates, as a result of a basic failure of a government agency to do its job. It should never have been imposed in the first place. And that means we have a duty not just to forgive it, but to repay its victims.