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More WINZ extravagance exposed

Press Release 27 July 1999

Green Party Co-Leader Rod Donald says he has obtained documents which show WINZ spent $600 a head for ten staff to have lunch with five overseas celebrities.

Former Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev, General Norman Schwarzkopf, Al 'Chainsaw' Dunlap, Rene Rivkin and Kevin Trudeau spoke to an audience of business leaders and government agencies, including WINZ, at the "1999 World Masters of Business Event" held at the Logan Campbell Centre on Saturday 22 May.

Rod Donald says he understands WINZ opted for either the Grand Masters' Package at $6750 + GST or the Presidential Package at $6000 + GST, both of which included a VIP Corporate Luncheon. General seating, with no lunch, cost $295 a head.

"Paying over $6000 for ten staff to have lunch with some big names is yet another example of outrageous extravagance by WINZ," said Rod Donald.

"It cost more per staff member for the day than a single unemployed person gets in a month. There is no way WINZ Chief Executive Christine Rankin can defend this expenditure.

"Even if WINZ had taken up the $295 a head budget offer why were they there at all to hear the likes of Al 'Chainsaw' Dunlap who is recognised worldwide for his slash and burn approach to company staffing levels? 'Stormin' Norman' Schwarzkopf is hardly an ideal role model either.

"I would like to know what the WINZ senior staff who attended this luncheon learned about how to create more jobs, how to help superannuitants feel more secure in their old age and how to support sole parents to bring up their families," he said.

Rod Donald has also revealed that several other government agencies paid for corporate tables. They include ACC, Royal NZ Navy, the Army (Linton Military Camp), Te Puni Kokere, Transfund and TVNZ.

"The other government agencies which derive their income from taxpayers also need to be held to account for their extravagance," he said.

"All up, government agencies must have spent close to $50,000 for the VIP luncheon for the 70 attendees. Food banks and church missions around the country will be staggered to hear where government agencies' priorities appear to lie.

"With missions short of warm clothes and curtains for the winter and food banks running low on food for struggling beneficiaries it is beyond belief that government departments or their ministers can justify spending money on corporate luncheons.

"I repeat my call to Prime Minister Jenny Shipley to widen the State Services Commission inquiry into WINZ spending on conferences to including government department travel spending, all expenditure on conferences and workshops, including corporate videos, and any costs associated with 'rebranding' exercises including advertising.

"The culture of corporate extravagance in the public sector must end and ministers, as well as chief executives, must be held to account for the waste to date," Rod Donald said.

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