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Gaps Benchmarks A Farce, Says McCully

National MP Murray McCully says Closing the Gaps monitoring benchmarks, obtained under the Official Information Act, show that the policy "Is a complete farce and a gross offence to the notion of accountability".

"Hui to enable inmates to help the Department of Corrections develop a Treaty of Waitangi policy, Tikanga Maori Therapeutic Programmes for inmates, Ministry for the Environment programmes to maintain and enhance the exercise of kaitiakitanga, and Ministry of Energy programmes to tell East Coast Maori about the dangers of electricity and gas are not most New Zealanders' understanding of Closing the Gaps," Mr McCully said today.

"This material tends to confirm Labour MP John Tamihere's statement last week that Gaps funding is being consumed by bureaucracy and achieving nothing for those who are supposed to benefit.

"These are the benchmarks which are supposed to measure the results achieved by the expenditure of $243 million of taxpayers money. These are the measures which were going to be so robust that chief executives would lose their bonuses if their departments did not meet their Closing the Gaps targets. Yet the Government did everything possible to suppress these benchmarks, and now that they have been released we know the reason why.

"The Government launched this "flagship" programme in it's May Budget. On 27 July the Prime Minister wrote to all Ministers telling them that the Closing the Gaps benchmarks for each Department were to be delivered to her Gaps Cabinet Committee by 10 October. The Opposition has been seeking these papers since that time. The reason for the long delay becomes clear now that those Departments have exhausted their ability to withhold the documents under the Official Information Act. Key Departments like Health, WINZ, Child Youth and Family, and the Ministry of Social Policy, major recipients of Gaps funding, are yet to release the benchmarks which will measure the success of their programmes.

"The Prime Minister's July letter to Ministers set out a template for Closing the Gaps benchmarks. Specific targets were to be set, against which Departmental performance could be measured. The material now delivered to the Opposition shows that $243 million of Closing the Gaps funding will not be the subject of robust performance measures.

New Zealanders will be delighted to hear that as a result of the $243 million Closing the Gaps programme the Department of Corrections will "develop a formal induction process for new probation officers" to "increase staff knowledge of Treaty of Waitangi", and that the Department has identified a specific target of "180 inmates to attend a Tikanga Maori Therapeutic programme with an 80% completion in 2000/2001". Another 943 offenders are to attend Tikanga Maori programmes.

"Corrections will also, amongst other Gaps initiatives, undertake development of a "Maori Targeting Framework within Integrated Offender Management", an "evaluation of Maori Culturally Related Needs Index" and complete 10 iwi hui and 6 inmate hui in order to "develop and implement a departmental Treaty of Waitangi policy statement."

"The Closing the Gaps Cabinet Committee has been told that the specific goals to be monitored against include "maintaining and enhancing the exercise of kaitiakitanga" and "encouraging Maori to develop ways of incorporating matauranga into environmental planning" by the Ministry for the Environment; an "80% improvement in participant self-esteem" in both the Conservation Corps and the Youth Service Corps by the Ministry for Youth Affairs, and "an increased awareness by the East Coast Maori community of the dangers of electricity and gas" from the Ministry of Energy.

"The Ministry of Womens Affairs has come to the party with a specific Gaps target of "identification of the gender disparities between Maori and non Maori for education, employment health housing and criminal justice" and a "strategy determining when it is appropriate to conduct a gender analysis for Closing the Gaps work programme".

"Helen Clark knew very well that with benchmarks like these, there was no way her Closing the Gaps programmes could survive public scrutiny. She hoped that by dropping the slogan she would avoid further questions about where $243 million of public money will go. But, whatever new name the Prime Minister gives this former flagship programme, Departments of State continue to spend the money. The National Party will continue to question where that money is going," Mr McCully said.

Ends


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