Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search - 19 September 2008 - 19 September 2008

A Weekly Report from the Keyboard of Murray McCully
MP for East Coast Bays

More Embarrassment over UN Housing Rorts

Serious questions remain over the New Zealand military’s systematic rorting, since 2001, of the UN housing allowances for UN secondees. As the facts emerge they make our military leaders look increasingly shabby. And it is now emerging that the customary review of the Court of Enquiry process levels strong criticism at NZDF handling of the affair.

What is now clear is that our military bosses (specifically including the Chief of Defence Force General Mateparae) were fully aware from as early as 2 August 2007 that the system by which they instructed UN secondees to claim UN housing allowances was in breach of UN rules. Persons of a helpful disposition have forwarded copies of email traffic from that date that leaves little room for doubt. Just look at the following text, approved by senior officers, including General Mateparae, responding to the complaint received by the UN:

“In 2005 the NZDF reviewed the conditions of service for personnel seconded to the UN. You will appreciate that while there is a desire to ensure equitable treatment for UN staff regardless of national origin, there is also a need to ensure NZDF personnel seconded to the UN receive comparable treatment to those in New York on NZDF conditions. A comparison of the two schemes revealed that UN secondees could be up to $100,000 worse off than other NZDF personnel.

“To partially remedy the situation, the NZDF applied a housing subsidy up to a ceiling of US$6,000 per month for personnel with dependants (partners not included) and US$3,500 per month for those without dependants. These maximum amounts were to be paid less any subsidy paid by the UN”.

Since August 2007, knowing that it was the system, not the individuals who were at fault, Defence bosses have stood back and let the individual secondees take the heat. To add insult to injury four such secondees have now apparently been censured following a formal Court of Enquiry.

However, serious questions are now being asked about that process. From the beginning, the Court of Enquiry process looked like a white-wash. And so it turned out to be. But following each Court of Enquiry process, there is a requirement for a formal review. And the word is that in this case the Review, which includes at least one high-powered legal mind, has found reason to seriously criticise the Court of Enquiry process. So stay tuned in folks. There is more to play out before this saga is over.

Health Funds to Nanny-state Activists

Regular readers will be aware that the Ministry of Health’s practice of funding left-wing, do-gooder, nanny-state lobby groups, instead of doctors, nurses and hospital beds, causes serious blood pressure problems for the humble Member for East Coast Bays. So there were serious blood pressure issues this week when a thoughtful soul provided a copy of the annual accounts for the Public Health Association.

The Public Health Association (PHA) is well established as a champion of left-wing, nanny-state causes. And said PHA appears to have fervent admirers within the Ministry of Health. Listed at the top of the income column in the annual accounts for the year to 31 March 2008 are the following four items:

MOH Advocacy Informed Debate $167,395
MOH Advocacy Health Public Policy $127,000
MOH Advocacy Conferences Subsidy $ 57,000
MOH Core Competencies Project $ 31,515

That’s a cool $382,910 the Ministry of Health has given to its left-wing activist mates. Every cent of it at the expense of providing care for sick people. As you might expect, the National Party Spokesperson on Health, Tony Ryall, has already been on the case. Mr Ryall asked Health Minister David Cunliffe to explain the purpose of the grants.

According to the Minister, the MOH Advocacy Informed Debate grant of $167,395 was to fund “the development of a communication plan which includes: - keeping members and supporters informed of the Public Health Association’s activities - developing strategies for sharing research-based information to the public health workforce and interested public - co-ordinating the provision of evidence-based research information and timely comment to the media in response to emerging public health issues”.

The MOH Advocacy Health Public Policy grant of $127,000 was to fund the “maintenance of member networks that contribute to healthy public policy - maintenance of a Maori caucus to provide Maori perspectives into the development of healthy public policy - liaison with Government and Non-Government organisations to encourage innovative collaborative action in the development of public health policy, and - provision of Public Health Association’s collective expertise to research-based advice and information on social policy, workforce, regulatory and legislative processes affecting public health”.

The MOH Core Competencies Project grant of $57,000 was for “planning and delivering focus group workshops with selected public health service providers to: - update providers on implementation of the Public Health Workforce Development Plan and seek advice on ways to support its implementation - share information on experiences of developing and implementing professional competencies in the workplace”.

All of which, ladies and gentlemen, are very poor substitutes for the doctors, nurses and hospital beds on which these hundreds of thousands of dollars should have been spent.


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