Prime Minister Helen Clark expects Maori broadcasting agency Te Mangai Paho to keep "a close eye" on its $1.6 million grant to former NZ First MP Tukoroirangi Morgan.

The agency has given Mr Morgan the money to make a 10-programme documentary series for the new Maori television channel.

Te Mangai Paho was heavily criticised for its role in the Aotearoa Television Network collapse in 1997.

Mr Morgan was a director of Aotearoa and took part in an infamous shopping spree with its money which included a pair of $89 underpants.

A Serious Fraud Office investigation cleared him of fraud.

Helen Clark said yesterday that Te Mangai Paho was scrutinised through the select committee process, like all Government-funded agencies.

"You expect a close eye on it, given the history of the applicant, but ... the history relates more to the management of a station ... It's fair to point out that he got into trouble for his management of a television station, not for programme making.

"A lot of people in public life had experience of being interviewed by or dealing with Tukoroirangi Morgan when he was with TV3 news, and I must say, in my experience, he was always very professional in that capacity."

The Prime Minister said Te Mangai Paho was an autonomous body and the Government did not determine whom it gave money to.

However, it was subject to scrutiny "and, of course, if there are ever doubts the Audit Office has a look".

Opposition MPs are aghast at the size of the grant for what will amount to five hours of television.

"That is outrageously expensive television by anyone's definition," said National MP Murray McCully.

"It is just rubbish that we have got taxpayers funding that sort of expensive programming for what is going to be an audience you could count on one hand."

Act leader Richard Prebble said he was aware proposals similar to Mr Morgan's had been rejected.

"I'm intrigued that this one has been accepted and others haven't for actually that concept. One would like to sincerely hope that there is a closed lock on the budget and the wardrobe."

Mr Morgan's series, Hawaiki, is due to be finished in June. It will consist of 10 30-minute programmes, in Maori, drawing on DNA research, archaeology and interviews with Pacific historians.

Mr Morgan, who is the producer, will not front the programmes. He and his wife are directors of Astraeus, the company making the series.

- NZPA