Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Peters puts spotlight on Maori trust

Peters calls for inquiry into group’s deals.

Winston Peters.
Winston Peters.

New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters is calling for an inquiry into finances at a $30 million-a-year South Auckland Maori disability support services trust, claiming evidence of hundreds of thousands of dollars in "irregular payments" that have "crippled" the organisation.

Te Roopu Taurima O Manukau Trust has income of $30.6 million a year, 500 staff and provides services to 243 people.

But Mr Peters said he'd received information alleging the trust was insolvent and had "problems related to improper processes, questionable payments, doctored invoices and the employment of a former Customs officer earlier jailed for smuggling methamphetamine".

He said about $250,000 had been paid to two consultancy firms for financial and human resources advice "but neither firm appears to have obvious qualifications in these areas".

"It is clear there are serious financial irregularities, like a bakery company being paid $2000 to rewire a clothesline and a payment to another company for security systems that did not exist."

Mr Peters said there was also evidence of "improper purchase and maintenance of vehicles" including instances where the costs of servicing vehicles were "several times those charged by nationwide car companies".

He said 14 vehicles appeared to have been purchased by the trust "without going through a proper tender process and using an unusual payment method".

Mr Peters also said it "stretches the credibility" of the trust that it had hired a former Customs official, Tori Puata, as its "senior assets officer" two years ago, given Mr Puata was jailed for nine years in 2004 for his role in a meth smuggling syndicate.

Asked whether the trust was solvent, chairman John Marsden last night said, "it's still operating" but hung up before the Herald could ask further questions.

Ministry of Health national health board manager Stuart Powell said the the ministry's audit and compliance unit had undertaken financial and governance reviews of the trust.

The board was "currently investigating options to improve the organisation's performance and is discussing these with the Ministry of Health", Mr Powell said.

- NZ Herald

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