Wednesday, August 05, 2020

A slush fund

One of the government's key policies - extracted by NZ First as part of its coalition agreement - is the "Provincial Growth Fund": $1 billion a year spent on creating jobs in rural New Zealand. Yesterday the Auditor-General issued a report on the fund, finding that it lacks transparency, and that it is difficult to evaluate whether we're getting value for money for this spending. This is pretty damning - when the government spends money, we're entitled to know what it is spending it on, what it expects to get out of it, and whether that actually happens. And the Auditor-General found that that was not the case.

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones' response has simply been to deny the findings. Of course he would - he's the problem. Jones tours the provinces - especially Northland, the electorate he hopes to win in September - dispensing millions of dollars, and trying to make it look like its all his personal gift rather than the result of any competitive process (and in some cases, it is). And this is how he defends it:

“You win an election through an MMP process and associated with electoral victory are dividends, and one dividend arrived in the form of manifesto commitments, funded by putea in the form of the PGF [Provincial Growth Fund], endorsed by the Cabinet of New Zealand Government,” Jones said.
This is a simply corrupt attitude. Government money is not there to be dispensed to the government's supporters as a reward for their votes. Its the sort of shit I'd expect to see in a despotism, not in New Zealand. As for how to fix it, voting Jones out in September would be a good start.