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Labour blows $1m-plus on cultural consultation

Simon Power
National Party Law & Order Spokesman

19 November 2006

Labour blows $1m-plus on cultural consultation

The Government has spent more than $1 million on cultural consultation over the construction of four new prisons, despite a 2004 report finding such spending at one prison ‘excessive’, says National’s Law & Order spokesman, Simon Power.

He is releasing figures that show the Corrections Department has spent a further $1.38 million for ‘the delivery of cultural advice and service’ at the prisons since a report into the spending of $1.5 million to iwi groups and individuals at the Spring Hill construction site alone.

“This is money that could have been better spent on rehabilitation or skills training for inmates.

“It’s clear Corrections does not follow its own advice.

“Their report, written by then-chief executive Mark Byers, found that as at February 2004, a total of almost $2.5 million had been spent at the four prisons, and that a lot of it was unnecessary. It said:

Some costs were too high for the benefits received. There were ‘too many people undertaking similar work’. Some of the work ‘could have been more cost-effectively done in-house, or by a smaller number of people’.

“Even then-minister Paul Swain said it was clear some of the spending was ‘excessive’ and ‘unacceptable’, that ‘the scrutiny of taxpayers’ money is going to be a lot tighter’, and that he would run a ‘justifiability ruler’ over future spending.

“Something was obviously lost in the process, because nothing seems to have changed.

“Corrections has blithely gone ahead and spent a further $1.38 million of taxpayers’ money to a total of almost $3.9 million, despite the report’s scathing comments on excessive spending. And that figure is likely to increase, with two of the prisons not yet complete.

“Perhaps Minister Damien O’Connor might like to explain why his department has ignored its own advice.”

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