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Closing The Gaps Has Come Off The Rails

The Government's Closing the Gaps programme is a shambles that is creating more problems than it is solving, Opposition Leader Jenny Shipley said today.

"Material we've flushed out in the House and through the Official Information Act shows that the Government's key officials don't know what the programme is supposed to do - and aren't monitoring it anyway.

"It started out as a programme to help Maori and Pacific Islanders but now, at least for public consumption, it's a programme for all poor New Zealanders. But the Government has forgotten to tell the departments who are supposed to be implementing the programme about the change.

"Michael Cullen first told the House today on behalf of the Prime Minister that officials hadn't been given any new instructions because they had been working to the wider brief all along.

"Then he said the Government had told some inner officials about the change but maybe they hadn't passed the word on to departmental chief executives.

"We know that chief executives have not been told about any policy change, because they've told us so at select committees.

"Then Dr Cullen said the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet was monitoring the programme. This directly defies the Prime Minister's commitment in February that Te Puni Kokiri would undertake effectiveness audits of departments' programmes and services. (The Press, 29 February 2000).

"If DPMC is doing the monitoring, then it's not doing much of a job. According to letters I tabled in the House today, DPMC has no departmental progress reports on Closing the Gaps, despite being told in February to provide them.

"Parekura Horomia then added to the confusion by suggesting that Te Puni Kokori, not DPMC, was responsible for monitoring. What a mess. "The Government must decide whether Closing the Gaps is an affirmative action programme for Maori and Pacific Islanders or whether it has bowed to public opinion and extended the programme to cover everyone," Mrs Shipley said.


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