Tamihere pulls strings on funding

By Bevan Hurley bevan hurley@hos co nz

Tamihere acknowledges heavying Health Ministry officials and asking Turia to intervene, and makes no apology for it. Photo / Getty Images
Tamihere acknowledges heavying Health Ministry officials and asking Turia to intervene, and makes no apology for it. Photo / Getty Images

Ousted Cabinet minister John Tamihere used his political connections to restore axed funding to one of his health trusts, despite official concerns about its record-keeping.

The politician-turned-broadcaster blasted officials who cut nearly $1 million in funding - a decision overturned after he complained to his former ministerial colleague, Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia.

Tamihere this week acknowledged heavying Ministry of Health officials and asking Turia to intervene, telling the Herald on Sunday that he made no apology for it.

Tamihere weighed in to stop the 2011 cuts imposed on Hapai Te Hauora Tapui, of which he is a director.

Giving the officials 24 hours to respond to his questions, Tamihere wrote: "This is the only contract out of sync with the axing regime announced by you and your mates."

Tamihere then raised the cuts with Turia and she requested a briefing from ministry officials.

In a partial back-flip a few days later, the ministry offered a $235,000 "clawback" to Hapai to phase the budget cuts over two financial years.

Tamihere said this week he would never back down from a fight with bureaucrats.

"What you've got to do is stand up and have a go," he said. "If they want to, they will start to suffocate and strangle you. Do people see me as assertive, aggressive and pugnacious? Yeah, but have a look at what we're trying to fix."

Documents released under the Official Information Act show Ministry of Health officials repeatedly complained about Hapai's record-keeping, saying its reporting and breakdown of costs lacked detail.

Hapai is owned by three large Maori trusts, Te Whanau o Waipareira Trust - of which Tamihere is chief executive - Te Runanga o Ngati Whatua and Raukura Hauora o Tainui.

These trusts bill Hapai for about $1m in services annually - described as "unreasonably high management fees" by a health ministry official in 2011.

The ministry noted Hapai "had done some great work in engaging whanau in physical activity, although it appears much of the reported activity was also reported by Waipareira under their separate Ministry of Health contract".

Turia told the Herald on Sunday this week it was standard practice to seek advice from health officials, and she still supported Hapai.

"Any issues that have arisen in the course of the contractual relationship between Hapai and the ministry have been dealt with through the ministry's performance monitoring processes," she said.

Hapai chief executive Lance Norman said Hapai had been awarded two national contracts in the past 18 months, showing it was performing well.

- Herald on Sunday

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