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Closing The Gaps Has Failed

The Maori Affairs select committee has delivered a strong attack on the failure of the government's Closing the Gaps programme, in its supplementary estimates report to Parliament yesterday.

ACT leader Richard Prebble said the committee's report was unanimous - so Labour, the Alliance, National and ACT MPs agree there are serious inadequacies.

"The report reveals that:
· Te Puni Kokiri has not audited departments for their performance in delivering to Maori. Last year the coalition said heads of departments who failed to deliver better services for Maori would lose their jobs. · Te Puni Kokiri has refused to give the committee the results of departmental reviews that have been completed.

· The Cabinet committee on Closing the Gaps has been dissolved as Helen Clark seeks to distance herself from the debacle.

· The select committee has learned that the Cabinet social equity committee has told departments that they no longer need to report progress on Closing the Gaps.

· The amount of money being delivered to Maori programmes has been cut. · The select committee has repeatedly been promised benchmarks to measure the effectiveness of the government's programmes to reduce Maori disadvantage.

· Dr Love, the former head of Te Puni Kokiri, promised the benchmarks within a week - he resigned before they were delivered.

· The head of the PM's department, Mark Prebble, promised the benchmarks before Christmas - the government then dissolved the Cabinet committee that the PM chaired on Closing the Gaps.

· The new Minister, Parekura Horomia, promised measurable performance standards. The new head of Te Puni Kokiri has also promised measurable yardsticks. Nothing has been delivered.

· The $10 million capacity-building programme looks like a slush fund. There are no criteria for paying out the money. A whole range of organisations appear to be receiving money. The committee learned that local Te Puni Kokiri officials have discretion to give $2000 grants with no criteria on who to, or what for. The select committee has found some organisations have received up to five $2000 grants in six months. When we ask for details, the information supplied is meaningless.

"Labour and Alliance MPs on the committee have shown courage in expressing concern at the lack of direction in government policies for Maori. All MPs on the committee recognise that there are real problems confronting Maori," Mr Prebble said.

"Minister Horomia told the committee his concerns are Maori TV and the Maori electoral option.

"Since being Minister, he has transferred millions of dollars from economic and social programmes, to Maori TV and to increasing the number of Maori seats. But it's the Minister of Broadcasting who's responsible for TV and the Minister of Justice for the electoral option.

"I asked the Minister: 'What is he and his department doing to deal with the issues raised by the Lillybing case?' His answer was to offer me a private briefing.

"The department is spending more than $240 million a year. Closing the Gaps was identified last year as the government's number one priority. Today, no one is willing to take a lead or responsibility.

"I hope the Prime Minister responds positively to the issues the committee has identified," Mr Prebble said.

ENDS


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