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Rick Barker employs ostrich defence

Katherine Rich MP National Party Social Services Spokeswoman

25 November 2004

Rick Barker employs ostrich defence

"Rick Barker is employing the ostrich defence by putting his head in the sand and refusing to acknowledge the existence of major problems in his Community & Voluntary Sector portfolio," says National Party Social Services spokeswoman Katherine Rich.

"It's Pollyanna syndrome in the extreme."

Mrs Rich has become increasingly concerned by Rick Barker's now routine refusal to answer simple questions about the Community Organisation Grants Scheme (COGS).

"Not only is he refusing to answer questions, but he is also refusing to investigate certain matters after telling Parliament he would do just that.

"In the past couple of months he has refused to answer hundreds of written questions on the grounds that he is too busy - clearly he's too busy turning a blind eye to matters he said he would investigate.

(See oral question 14 October & written question 15596 attached)

"He told Parliament and the public 'I will have the matter investigated' when asked why the entire committee of the Waitakere Community Organisations Grants Scheme was asked to resign in 2002. Yet when I asked him a written question to confirm he would do so - he said he would not investigate," says Mrs Rich.

"Saying one thing in public and another in private. It's typical Labour.

"So this is the transparent, open, accountable Government that Helen Clark has delivered? It's a system where Ministers refuse to answer questions and refuse to investigate complaints for fear of embarrassment.

"Not a week goes by without another Government grant scheme being questioned. In fact, I uncovered two more COGS grants under investigation in the past week. (PQ 16390 attached) Mr Barker's portfolio is unravelling on a daily basis.

"The present scheme is too open to abuse. It's my view that the criteria for COGS grants needs to be tightened and better monitoring must be put in place," says Mrs Rich.

Attachment to Katherine Rich Media Statement
‘Rick Barker employs ostrich defence’

PQ 15597 (2004)
Question: Has the Minister asked officials to explain to him why the entire committee of the Waitakere Community Organisations Grants Scheme was asked to resign in 2002? If so, what explanation was he given?
Portfolio: Community & Voluntary Sector
Minister: Hon Rick Barker
Date Lodged:20/10/2004
Answer Text: Department of Internal Affairs’ officials advise a clash of personalities on the Waitakere COGS committee undermined the committee’s ability to work cohesively and to work effectively with the community.
Officials further advise this matter, dating back to 2002, was resolved to the satisfaction of the then Minister, the National COGS Committee, the Department of Internal Affairs and the local community.
Date Received:11/11/2004

Oral Questions - 14 October 2004
Question 11 (Extract)
Community Grants Scheme—Prosecutions

KATHERINE RICH: Why was the entire committee of the Waitakere Community Organisations Grants Scheme—12 elected representatives—asked to resign in 2002; was it because of allegations of conflict of interest and, in particular, the awarding of grants to organisations that those committee members had links to?
Hon RICK BARKER: I do not have any specific information on that matter with me at this moment, but I will have the matter investigated and respond to the member as soon as I am able.
KATHERINE RICH: Can he explain to the House and to the taxpayers of New Zealand why, in answers to my written questions asking what $580,000 worth of Community Organisations Grants Scheme funding had specifically achieved, he could not list any achievements whatsoever, and does he accept that with his present oversight of the Community Organisations Grants Scheme he is starting to make the Community Employment Group scheme look good?
Hon RICK BARKER: That member has asked over 110 questions of significant detail. The actual work involved to get all those answers on time would cause a huge disruption to my department. That member is driftnet fishing. Of course in all of those schemes the money that is granted goes back to the local community, and each organisation has to front up individually to its community to explain what it has done. The Community Organisations Grants Scheme is outstanding, and that member knows it.

PQ15596 (2004)
Question: Will the Minister investigate why the entire committee of the Waitakere Community Organisations Grants Scheme were asked to resign in 2002? If so, what will be the timeframe for that investigation?
Portfolio: Community & Voluntary Sector
Minister: Hon Rick Barker
Date Lodged:20/10/2004
Answer Text: No.

Date Received:15/11/2004

PQ - 16390 (2004)
Question: Further to his answer to Parliamentary Question 15600 (2004) excluding grants made through either the Waitakere or Manukau\Counties local distribution Community Organisation Grants Scheme committees, are there other grants currently under investigation, if so, what are they, broken down by local distribution committee?
Portfolio: Community & Voluntary Sector
Minister: Hon Rick Barker
Date Lodged:05/11/2004
Answer Text: Department of Internal Affairs' officials advise that, excluding grants made through either the Waitakere or Manukau/Counties local distribution Community Organisation Grants Scheme committees, there are two grants currently under investigation totalling $5,400. Details of the grants and the COGS committee that made them are not being released as the release of information at this stage would not be in the public interest as it may jeopardise the investigation and any consequent actions.

Date Received:19/11/2004

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