The chairman of the National Māori Authority has called for the Auditor-General to look into how Māori services agency Whānau Ora allowed a $600,000 surplus to be paid to a private shareholder.
The revelation, which emerged at a parliamentary committee this week, has led to sniping between Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare and his colleague Associate Māori Affairs Minister Willie Jackson.
National's Whānau Ora spokeswoman Jo Hayes, during a hearing into the annual review of Te Puni Kōkiri (TPK), the Ministry of Māori Development this week, said she was concerned that one of Whānau Ora's three commissioning agencies - Te Pou Matakana - gave a $600,000 surplus to its major shareholder the National Urban Māori Authority.
TPK'S chief adviser Nancy Tuaine told the Māori Affairs select committee that once the commissioning agency had met its contractual requirements, it could do what it chose with any surplus.
Following Wednesday's hearing, TPK chief executive Michelle Hippolite said she would talk to the commissioning agencies to find out what has happened and would follow it up.
Today National Māori Authority chairman Matthew Tukaki called for Hippolite to go and for an investigation into the payment.
TPK administers the Whānau Ora funding for providers to give health and whanau wellbeing support to Māori.
Tukaki said the Auditor-General must be called in and an independent investigation launched.
"It's hard to accept that with dozens or hundreds of contractors and consultants that an agency so important to Māori could continue to bungle its way through our affairs," he said.
"To think that $600,000, as a surplus, could be given away as some kind of shareholder dividend says more about the ethics and morals involved than it does the savvy practice of a few people who put together a contract that would even allow this to happen," Tukaki said in a statement.
Henare, who is meeting Te Pou Matakana today, told One News yesterday he would prefer to see the money reinvested.
"We're talking about public money here. There is a demand in the public that there is accountability and transparency so it's only fair that I ask those questions."
Jackson told One News Henare had not been given all the information and that he should be seeking more from Hippolite.
"He needs to start asking some questions of his CEO and the information she's been giving him," he said.
Henare responded: "That's why I'm the Minister of Whānau Ora, and he isn't."
Te Pou Matakana chief executive John Tamihere, a former Labour government minister, told Radio New Zealand today the money was an incentive payment and contained in a Treasury clause in its contract.
The money would go back into its services, he said.