The Auditor General provides independent assurance that public entities are operating, and accounting for their performance, in keeping with Parliament's intentions. The announcement follows its review into payments received by the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency.
“The response from the Office of the Auditor General is an affirmation of proper conduct taking place in this matter,” said Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency CEO John Tamihere.
Due to the level of public interest in the matter, the Auditor General has written an open letter to the Ministry with its findings, stating, “We have not identified anything that suggests payments have been made in excess or outside the scope of Parliamentary appropriations or other legislative authority, or that the Ministry has otherwise acted with financial impropriety.”
The letter went on to explain that other agencies in the public sector administer similar funding arrangements, including incentive payments.
Tamihere said it was important to recognise that such payments are standard in the public sector. He explained that the payments received by Te Pou Matakana – now Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency – in 2015/16 and 2016/17 were paid out in each of the following years as dividends to urban Māori authorities to bolster services and were not going into individuals’ pockets.
The open letter also includes some observations about the usefulness of incentive payment arrangements. It further states that incentive payments can deliver value for money if the additional value of the increased service delivery is equal to or greater than the amount paid out as an incentive.
“In general, the use of incentives in contracts is intended to encourage service providers to perform at a higher level than they might do otherwise. We understand that the objective is to encourage innovation and improve the delivery of Whānau Ora outcomes,” it said.
The review stemmed from the Māori Affairs Committee’s Annual Review of Te Puni Kōkiri – the Ministry of Māori development – in December when members of the select committee asked about incentive payments.