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Response to Allegations Against Huata MP

Response to Allegations Against Donna Awatere Huata MP

Statement by Richard Prebble, Leader, ACT New Zealand 2pm, December 20, 2002

This morning the Dominion Post newspaper has run a front page story making serious allegations against Donna Awatere Huata MP stating that public money that was paid to assist New Zealand school children with reading difficulties has been misused.

I have today spoken to Donna about these allegations.

Donna Awatere Huata strongly denies that any money has been misappropriated either by herself or her family. She advises me that there has been a fraud on the Trust. When she became aware of the fraud she advised the police who have prosecuted. The person concerned, who has name suppression, has pleaded guilty and has just been sentenced. Donna advises me that she believes this person - who is now a convicted fraudster - has made these allegations.

I have stated to Donna that these allegations are serious and, as it is public money, need to be investigated. Donna agrees. Accordingly I have written to the Auditor-General requesting that he hold an inquiry into the allegations made by the newspaper and that he report to parliament and myself on his findings.

Donna Awatere Huata is very upset by the allegations. She is seeking legal advice and until she has spoken with her advisers and her family does not intend making a public statement. Donna Awatere Huata accepts that we in the ACT Party believe in the highest standards of accountability for public money and she has agreed with me that if there has been any impropriety she will resign.

We are very proud of Donna's undoubted achievements on behalf of young Maori children who the education system is failing. There is no doubt that her four minute reading programme has improved Maori children's literacy and is an important education initiative.

I have made the ACT Party's position very clear. We in ACT insist on high standards of accountability. I wish to assure the public that if those standards have not been met I will insist on the appropriate resignation. In the meantime I have taken every step that is open to me to ensure that this matter is thoroughly and professionally examined. I hope the Auditor-General can hold an urgent inquiry to clarify the issue.

20 December 2002
K B Brady Auditor General
P O Box 3928 48 Mulgrave Street

Dear Mr Brady I am writing to you as leader of ACT New Zealand regarding the allegations in the Dominion Post newspaper Friday December 20 2002 concerning ACT New Zealand MP Donna Awatere Huata.

The allegations concern taxpayers' money earmarked for New Zealand school children with reading difficulties. The newspaper is claiming that some of the money may have been inappropriately spent.

While the newspaper does not allege that there has been any fraud they do state that a large cheque was cashed by Mrs Huata and that money was spent on things like a fashion show, materials for a fruit shop, gardening and gardening supplies. None of these items would appear to be spending on a reading programme.

I have asked Mrs Huata and her husband whether they have misappropriated any of the taxpayers' money. They have both strongly denied any wrongdoing.

I believe these allegations do need to be investigated, as they involve public money. This letter is to request that you do open an urgent inquiry into the allegations made by the newspaper and that your report to parliament and myself on your findings. It is important that we observe high standards in the handling of what is the taxpayers' money.

Please feel free to contact my office or me if I can assist you in your inquiry. Yours sincerely

Hon Richard Prebble CBE

Leader, ACT New Zealand

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