Pacific broadcaster among those charged with deciding future of problem gambling services

Pacific broadcaster Fa'amatuainu Tino Pereira was the sole non-bureaucrat on a panel that evaluated bids in a controversial tender that axed most of the Problem Gambling Foundation's funding.

A first batch of Health Ministry documents related to the tender, released under the Official Information Act, discloses the names of the six panel members and the criteria they used to assess 32 bids for problem gambling services. But all material on how they scored the competing bids has been blanked out.

The Problem Gambling Foundation, the biggest existing provider, lost all its funding except for its Asian services and is expected to lay off 52 of its 63 staff when its current contract ends on June 30.

The Salvation Army is believed to be the main winner and is advertising for gambling caseworkers/clinicians and public health workers in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Manawatu, Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury and the West Coast.


Mr Pereira, a former Radio New Zealand journalist and a former chairman of the National Pacific Radio Trust, runs his own Wellington consultancy, Niu Vision. He chairs the Social Development Ministry's Pacific advisory panel, helped to set up a trust to insulate Pacific homes in Porirua, and serves on the NZ board of Unicef.

A company he founded with his brother J.R. Pereira, Pacific Economic Development Agency (PEDA), was allocated $1 million a year for four years for Pacific economic development in the 2010 Budget. But the Government backed off after adverse publicity, the money was redirected to various Pacific youth employment schemes, and PEDA was deregistered last year.

The other five panel members were Dion Williams, Chas McCarthy and Ben Everist from the Health Ministry, Jude West from the Health Promotion Agency and Kirsty Pleace from the Internal Affairs Department.

Ms West was the Problem Gambling Foundation's Wellington regional manager until last August and declared this as as a "perceived" conflict of interest, but was "allowed to continue to input into discussions and to score".

Mr Williams and Mr McCarthy have both held roles in Maori health. Mr Pereira said it was up to the ministry to say why he was chosen.

The only clue to why the Salvation Army displaced the Problem Gambling Foundation was a reference to "a strategic direction that suggests integration of services in the mental health and addiction services where appropriate". "Alignment with the addiction treatment sector" and with the strategic plan, provider collectives and Whanau Ora collectives were worth 10 per cent of the points in the evaluation.

Salvation Army national operations manager for problem gambling Lisa Campbell said the army was still negotiating its contract with the ministry but had been given approval to advertise for staff to make sure they were in place when the contract starts on July 1.