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Tekau Plus to be reviewed

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
David Garrett
David Garrett

Wellington, March 23 NZPA - A taxpayer-funded Maori business development project which has been suspended after allegations of conflicts of interest and questions over value for money is to be reviewed.

However, ACT MP David Garrett today questioned whether the Auditor-General should investigate.

In Parliament today Mr Garrett asked Finance Minister Bill English about the allegations carried in The Dominion Post newspaper this week that there were serious problems with the Tekau Plus project. The project, designed to develop 10 Maori businesses so each would earn $10 million of foreign exchange within a decade, was suspended in November.

Mr Garrett queried whether the spending was an example of good spending of tax payer money.

"...will he call in the Auditor-General to investigate the misappropriation by (former director) Mr Paul Morgan and his mates at Tekau Plus of money meant for Maori business, but which instead ended up in Mr Paul Morgan's pocket?"

Mr English said the allegations were being investigated.

Te Puni Kokiri (TPK) raised concerns about the project which started in October 2007 and was worth $3m, with two-thirds of the money already paid out.

Tekau Plus is a partnership between the government-appointed Maori Trustee, John Paki, Maori business network the Federation of Maori Authorities (Foma) and the Poutama Trust, which provides business services for Maori.

The project has been run by Foma subsidiary Fomana Capital, which is chaired by Mr Paki.

TPK chief executive Leith Comer repeatedly told Mr Paki he had failed to produce evidence that the project was achieving its contracted "outputs".

Mr Comer said he told Mr Paki 16 times that Tekau had failed to provide documents and evidence required for a six-month period.

A report on Tekau accounts showed nearly $1.2m of taxpayers' money was paid to Fomana Capital -- but there were no descriptions of the services it provided, what the money was spent on or what work was done by Fomana or third parties it hired.

In a statement Mr Paki said the Tekau Plus board had asked for a value for money report to be done and TPK and interested parties had endorsed the move.

"This value for money exercise will look into the value of the Tekau Plus programme including the value gained from the investment from TPK to date and provide guidance for the programme going forward."

PricewaterhouseCoopers, which previously did some work on the project's finances, would do the review with two independent reviewers; Deputy State Services Commissioner Tony Hartevelt and prominent Maori businessman Whaimutu Dewes. The review was expected to be completed by the end of next month and would be made public.

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