Auditor General Inquiry Sought Into Censor Office
7 November 2006
Auditor General Inquiry Sought Into Censor's Office
The Society has written to the Auditor-General requesting that he initiate an urgent in-depth inquiry into the Financial Statements of the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) for the year ended 30 June 2005. The OFLC Annual Report containing Financial Statements for 2005/06 (closing 30 June 2006) have yet to be tabled in parliament by the Chief Censor Bill Hastings. As soon as they are, they will be referred to the Government Administration (Select) Committee which has been given the task of carrying out a review of the OFLC accounts and its performance. The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) is currently carrying out an overview into the peformance of the OFLC, in particular the competencies of the Chief Censor and his deputy. The Society was recently invited by the DIA to make contributions to this overview. It has strongly recommended the replacement of Mr Hastings and his deputy, Ms Nicola McCully, whose statutory terms of office expired on the 18th of October 2006 and 16th of Septrember 2005 respectively. They hold statutory positions and are the sole members of the OFLC responsible for its Financial Statements. Both have been viewing hard core porn and publications containing "objectionable" content as part of their job for over 10 years. Mr Hastings is currently seeking his third three-year appointment as Chief Censor.
The Society's letters to the Auditor-General, dated 4 and 6 November 2006, (see below) provide a critical analysis of the OFLC expenditure of $2,331,590 - revenue sourced mainly from tax-payers (Crown Revenue = $1,337,706) to carry out the task of "Examination, Classification and Registration" of the 1,468 publications it received in 2004/05. This service it performs called "Output 1" involved 16 persons working in the classification unit (censors). The Chief Censor earns between $180,000 and $190,000 and Ms McCully earns between $140,000 and $150,000 (p. 66 Annual Report 2005). (The total Crown Revenue received by the OFLC in 2004/05 was $1,960,000 and this was supposedly directed to completing Output 1 and Output 2 as defined in the Annual Report).
The OFLC receives revenue of $1,689,153.89 in excess of what it requires to fulfil its services as defined in Output 1, based on precise figures released by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon. Rick Barker, in response to written questions put to him by National MP Sandra Goudie. The Minister provided details of the real costs of assessment, classification, and registration (taking acount of all personnel costs and overheads) for each of the main categories of publications dealt with by the OFLC (e.g. DVD, video and magazines). His responses are vailable on the Society website.
Knowledge of the exact number of these publications classified in 2004/05 (published in the Annual Report) enabled the Society to calculate the total costs to the OFLC to fulfil its Output 1 service. The gap between revenue provided and real costs was massive and cannot be rationalised on the basis of expenditure dislosed in the Financial Statements, if the Minister is correct in saying that all overheads and personel costs are included in his cost disclosures. If a large component of these overhead or personnel costs were somehow overlooked by the Minister's officials then this means the real costs are much higher, meaning that the Minister has significantly misled parliament.
The Minister also disclosed OFLC calculations of the average chargeable time involved by its censors in the classification of each category of publication. When these are analysed it shows that the OFLC classification unit is running at between 28.32% and 34.11% efficiency. This is unaccepable to taxpayers. It means censors are only engaged in on-task duties between 1.4 and 1.7 days per week. "What on earth are they doing - at the tax-payers expense - for the rest of the week," asks the Society. "What is the Minister doing about this fiasco?" it asks.
80% of censors' time is spent assessing, examining and registering classification decision relating to sexually exlicit videos and DVDs, according to the deputy chief censor, Ms Nicola McCully (Sunday Star Times interview, 13/08/06). These are the hardcore porn sleaze publications that Ms McCully says are readily available, after she and her team have assessed them and cleared them for adult viewing, in the backroom (AO) sections of video/DVD stores.
The Society's letters to the Auditor General can be viewed on the Society's website (www.spcs.org.nz). Copies have been supplied to the Secretary of Internal Affairs, Mr Christoper Blake, the Chairman of the Government Administration (Select) Committee; the independent investigator appointed by DIA who carrying out an inquiry into the OFLC; Shane Arden MP and other MPs and officials.