Wednesday, March 13, 2024

There's a name for this

Every year, in the Budget, Parliament forks out money to government agencies to do certain things. And every year, as part of the annual review cycle, those agencies are meant to report on whether they have done the things Parliament gave them that money for. Agencies which consistently fail to deliver on their promises can expect pressure from Parliament, and ultimately Ministers, to sort their shit out.

But NZDF has a solution to that whole problem: they just mislead Parliament about their performance:

“Entirely unreliable.” That’s the Auditor-General’s assessment of the Defence Force’s performance reports – and might well be the assessment of the Defence Force, full stop.

Auditor-General John Ryan (whose office’s work impresses more and more with every reading) has quietly pointed out to a Parliamentary committee that the Defence Force’s claim to have achieved 83 percent of its performance measures has to be treated with more than just the proverbial pinch of salt. It needs an emergency airlift aid delivery sack of the stuff.

A pattern has emerged where readiness targets are set to 100 percent each year – only to be reduced part-way through the year. “One capability target was reduced to zero percent in each of the last three years,” he notes. “The lowest target is then reported against as being met, so the results are entirely unreliable.”

The changes were made through supplementary estimates, so presumably approved by the then-Minister. At the same time, it seems outright fraudulent. And it is certainly misleading, and arguably a contempt of Parliament. The question is whether Parliament will actually do anything about this, or whether they'll just surrender their duty to scrutinise the use of public funds, and allow themselves to be bullshat by a chronically delinquent agency.