By FRANCESCA MOLD

The Te Mangai Paho saga began when chief executive Trevor Moeke gave an old friend a job.

It was October 2000 and Mr Moeke was looking for a temporary radio manager.

He had worked with Tame Te Rangi in the 1990s at the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.

A month later, Mr Moeke decided to make Mr Te Rangi a permanent employee after advertising the job and interviewing five candidates.

That was his first mistake.

The second was that while Mr Te Rangi's references were checked, Mr Moeke failed to ensure he declared any criminal convictions - a standard process for most jobs in the public and private sectors.

It meant Mr Te Rangi, who was to handle contracts with a combined value of $10 million, did not have to reveal that he had spent five months in jail for fraud in the early 1990s.

He did time after stealing almost $40,000 from a Ngati Whatua trust.

After his job was made permanent, Mr Te Rangi reviewed and appraised radio funding applications, recommended approvals, monitored compliance and maintained funding databases.

In early 2001, he became the primary liaison between Te Mangai Paho and Sky Television, who were working together to put out regular te reo broadcasts.

At this point Mr Te Rangi appeared as a guest commentator at rugby games for Maori Sports Casting International (MSCI), which received taxpayer funding from TMP.

The involvement was initially approved by Mr Moeke and TMP chair Toby Curtis because Mr Te Rangi was highly skilled and was helping cement an important relationship with the Maori broadcasting community.

But by the end of July that year, Mr Te Rangi worked as a commentator in his own right, allegedly without TMP approval.

He provided almost weekly commentaries from August to November and again from February through to May 2002.

During this time, Maori broadcasters raised concerns about the potential conflict of interest created by a public servant having a side-line job with a private company with which he also held taxpayer-funded contracts.

Concerns were even raised at the national hui of Te Whakaruruhau (the Maori broadcasters federation) on May 2, 2001.

At a TMP board meeting in October, the attendance of staff at sports fixtures and the need to keep that separated from work was raised.

But Mr Te Rangi continued commentaries for MSCI and also Radio Ngati Porou.

TMP claims it did not know about the Ngati Porou broadcasts.

Payments by MSCI were made directly to Mr Te Rangi for expenses and wages. They also covered his motel and rental car bills. The figures have been estimated at almost $14,000 in expenses and $2730 in wages or "koha".

Mr Te Rangi has denied receiving such payments.

On occasions, his weekend commentaries also overlapped with TMP paid travel.

The head of MSCI, Hemana Waaka, said he asked Mr Te Rangi a number of times if his sportscasting raised any conflict with his TMP job but Mr Te Rangi reassured him it didn't.

Mr Waaka also raised the matter with Mr Moeke in 2001 and discussed it in a quarterly report to TMP.

The Treasury report into the affair, released on Wednesday, said MSCI had not attempted to conceal Mr Te Rangi's role as commentator.

Mr Waaka also told Treasury he knew nothing about payments made directly to Mr Te Rangi. Emails publicised by Act MP Rodney Hide show payments were made, but Mr Waaka said his email address was used by a colleague, Sam Rahui.

In November 2001, Mr Moeke and Mr Curtis discussed iwi radio concerns about the commentating conflict. Mr Moeke asked Mr Te Rangi not to attend future events, and sought details of how travel and expenses were met in the past.

Mr Te Rangi ignored both requests.

Mr Moeke repeated his warnings on February 7 last year and removed Mr Te Rangi from the funding committee after iwi radio warned they would challenge decisions.

The report found Mr Te Rangi did not acknowledge the negative consequences of his commentating until he resigned on March 17 this year.



It said Mr Moeke's attempt to deal with a "recalcitrant" employee had proved inadequate.

Who's who

Te Mangai Paho: The Maori equivalent of New Zealand on Air, set up to promote Maori language and culture through allocating taxpayer funding for Maori music, radio and television programming.

Maori Sports Casting International: A privately owned Maori broadcasting company, which received funding from Te Mangai Paho but was regularly paying one of its senior officials for rugby commentaries.

Herald Feature: Maori TV