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PM called on to investigate department

July 25, 1999

PM called on to investigate departments' "lavish spending"

Green Party Co Leader Rod Donald is calling on Prime Minister Jenny Shipley to instigate a wide-ranging investigation into government department expenditure on team-building conferences, training workshops, corporate videos and advertising.

Following controversy over lavish spending by Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ), three other government departments have recently cancelled conferences at exclusive North Island resorts.

Mr Donald wants Mrs Shipley to have the State Services Commission look into spending on travel, venues, catering and all other associated spending on conferences and workshops by government departments.

"WINZ was the tip of the iceberg. We now know that the culture of extravagance is prevalent throughout the state sector," Mr Donald said.

"While people are struggling to survive in the government-created free market, government departments and their chief executives are running wild spending public money on lavish conferences."

Mr Donald said revelations that the Children, Young Persons and their Families Agency (CYPFA) had spend $140,000 on two conferences in the past 14 months showed another department not delivering the right outcomes.

One conference had a banquet with an open bar and staff in fancy dress, and staff were given baseball caps as part of a Star Wars themed conference held in May, sources have told Mr Donald.

"Both National and Labour are to be held to account for imposing this corporate culture on our caring society," Mr Donald said.

"The focus must go on the ministers in charge of these departments. They are meant to be guardians of the public purse - they should not be allowing profligate spending of the purse.

"Why have they stood by and let the money be squandered?"

Mr Donald said Associate Minister for Work and Income Peter McCardle had been present at some of the lavish WINZ conferences, including the one where a mock wedding was held.

Mr Donald said WINZ head Christine Rankin and CYPFA head Jackie Brown were disciples of "state sector corporatisation guru" George Hicton, former head of Income Support and now chief executive at the Tourism Board.

"They all attended the same school of extravagance," he said.

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