There are times when I say "serves you right".

Whenever I see a government department, or government agency employee in trouble over money. I know that's being rather unkind but I see how non-profit organisations have to jump through hoops when being audited, particularly have to have robust financial reporting and checking systems in place, so I just can't help myself.

Non-government organisations (NGOs) are growing in number. They do vital work in every community. They have a special relationship with government departments, often a "high trust" relationship. You wouldn't think so at times because of the amount of auditing they are subjected to. High trust should be just that. Respect for the work being undertaken, often under very difficult circumstances, and for the committed people who do the job. But the degree of scrutiny and auditing, sometimes more than once a year, NGOs have to endure suggests that "high trust" relationship is merely a nice sounding catchphrase.

NGOs don't object to being audited. They are well aware that when you take the taxpayers' dollar you must be accountable for its use. But you would think their contracts with government agencies were in the millions of dollars. Not so. Around 80 per cent of NGO contracts with government departments are less than $200,000 annually. There has been some movement to make auditing less onerous over the years, but it is still a laborious, time consuming job. The government wants some measure of assurance its not going to be robbed.


So when I see a district health board and the Ministry of Social Development dropped in it by employees I think "so much for your own auditing processes". Because they have them to Africa. Government departments and agencies are big on the 3Ps: policies, processes and procedures. They are regularly reviewed to ensure they remain relevant and any changes are normally made in a timely fashion.

What happened in the case of the Ministry of Social Development employee Nabjeet Singh, who stole nearly $360,000 over 12 years? He created fake beneficiary identities. He resigned in 2011 and left for Australia, until his crimes were discovered in 2013 and he was extradited back to New Zealand.

Ironically he worked as a welfare cheat investigator. That takes some beating. MSD were highly embarrassed by the discovery. They should be. Their own checking system let them down. I wonder how long the fraud would have gone undetected had it not been for the anonymous tipoff.

Now we have the former Waikato District Health Board chief executive Dr Nigel Murray under investigation for his spending. I find it unbelievable that two years of his expenses weren't disclosed to the State Services Commission, as required of all chief executives. If they were there should have been no difficulty in spotting irregularities. When these are suspected you don't wait and hope the problem will go away. You act. You ask for explanations and start joining the dots.

The Serious Fraud Office is now making preliminary inquiries into the case involving $218,000 of taxpayer money which Murray spent during his three years in the job.

In both these cases it is easy to blame the employees. But what happened to best practice reporting and audit and risk policies. They have them. Just not followed them. Otherwise discrepancies would have been picked up.

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait is a Rotorua Lakes Council councillor, Lakes District Health Board member and chairs the North Island Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency. She writes, speaks and broadcasts to thwart political correctness.