The Insider: Spend in haste ...

Finance Minister Bill English checks out copies of his 2015 Budget. Photo / Mark Mitchel
Finance Minister Bill English checks out copies of his 2015 Budget. Photo / Mark Mitchel

Last year's Budget was remarkable in how much of it was written so late in the process. So much so, that only 44 per cent of new funding proposals had a cost-benefit analysis, not the targeted 100 per cent. Treasury officials hate such stuff, but can't do much about it. More than 90 per cent of this year's Budget is pretty much locked down, but there's always the chance a minister or department will come up with a brainwave. Treasury has updated its guidelines to departments, saying in the past "our requirements for new funding proposals for new initiatives did not explicitly include that a cost-benefit analysis be applied. As part of Budget 2016, cost-benefit analysis is required in most cases for new policy initiatives." In the end, though, who knows what might crop up between now and May 26?

Remember the rules

Treasury is also facing pushback from some departments over its efforts to ensure investments and capital spending are dealt with more rigorously. So far, only six of the big spending agencies - ACC, IRD, Corrections, Ministry of Education, the Defence Force, and the Transport Agency - have enough data to meet the new requirements in their 2015-16 annual reports.

Others have been "reminded" of their annual reporting requirements. It is a similar situation with attempts to get departments to provide an "Investor Confidence Rating" score. So far, only six investment-intensive agencies had these assessments completed by the end of 2015 and are now ready to come to Cabinet. All 24 investment-intensive agencies are not expected to complete investment assessments until March 2017. But what's a few hundreds of millions potentially being mis-spent when the headlines are dominated by a few thousand dollars wasted on glossy office furniture or airfares?

Feline confusion

Sometimes, MPs get their metaphors all mixed up when speaking in the House. Case in point: National MP Joanne Hayes denounced a Labour proposal, as it would "really throw the cat amongst the lions." Did she mean cat among the pigeons, lions laying down with lambs, even lions savaging Christians - or something else entirely?

Intelligence test

Some in Labour have been self-censoring themselves, as Sir Michael Cullen and Dame Patsy Reddy's report on the laws covering the security and intelligence agencies is about to come out. Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee meets next Tuesday to decide when the review will be released, and Labour will have to decide how it responds.

Sir Michael Cullen.
Sir Michael Cullen.


Cullen's involvement makes it tricky for Labour to bag the review, but many in the caucus are already keen to criticise it, even though they haven't seen it yet.

Red and dead

After years as an internet wasteland, the Labour Party's "Red Alert" blog site looks to have been quietly put out of its misery. Once lauded as the new way for MPs to interact with the public, it soon became a bit of an embarrassment, before being ignored. Now, it appears to be no more.

Feedback loop

A less-than-complimentary review of TV2 drama Filthy Rich has hit a nerve in the close-knit TV industry. Herald columnist Duncan Greive's criticism of the show has created a minor furore and the Insider hears his review been widely circulated and read with interest - including at funding agency NZ on Air, which backed the series to the tune of $8.25 million.

Runway rebellion

Someone who is obviously no fan of plans to extend Wellington Airport's runway has gone to the trouble of setting up a spoof Twitter account for Infratil, the airport's majority owner. It offers such tweets as: "Can't believe they're falling for this. Our shareholders will be very pleased." The Twitter campaign appears to have some way to go: at last check it had 17 followers.

Censor's warning

It seems different agencies have different views on censorship. On one hand, a Government discussion document suggests video-on-demand services such as Netflix, Lightbox and Neon don't need to be involved in the Chief Censor's classification process and should be allowed to self-classify, like old-school TV broadcasters. Chief Censor Andrew Jack, however, has been campaigning to support his role, arguing people have a right to be warned of potentially objectionable content. The debate again raises the issue of censorship's role in an age when material of any nature is just an internet search away.

- NZ Herald

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