Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Andrew Little is questioning why there are no checks and balances on public money given to iwi for specific purposes.
Little is seeking advice on why such funds, even if they are part of a Treaty settlement, are not subject to any oversight.
It comes after Newshub's The Hui programme reported on the case of Roger Pikia, the chairman of Te Arawa River Iwi Trust (Tarit). Pikia is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) over his financial activities, some of which involve the use of Tarit money.
Tarit, as part of its 2010 Treaty settlement, is receiving $1 million a year for 20 years through the Ministry for the Environment to care for the Waikato River. Four other Waikato and Waipā river iwi also receive the annual co-management payment.
It is these payments that have prompted Little's concern.
"I can confirm that there are no checks or balances. I have asked for advice on why that is because that doesn't seem right to me," Little told the Herald.
"It is for a specific purpose, which is the stewardship of the river. I think on that basis, given it's public money for a specific purpose, then there ought to be some oversight that activities undertaken to be taken are actually taken," Little said.
"With Treaty settlements, because it is redress for past wrongs and it is a form of partial compensation for what has happened in the past. Typically that's it. This is not like a Treaty settlement and that is the question I've raised with officials, that I want an answer to why are there no apparent checks and balances on how this money is used."
But Little's counterpart David Parker, whose Environment Ministry distributes the payments, said checks and balances should be provided within Tarit.
"If things have gone awry within Tarit it is their primary responsibility to address that," he said in a statement. While the Government was happy to help the trust with any steps that may be useful, the SFO investigation was the appropriate Crown response, Parker said.
Parker said he expected the matter to be resolved before the next $1m payment was due in January 2019.
The Ministry for the Environment, in an Official Information Act response to the Act party, said it had a fraud, theft and dishonest management policy but because the Tarit payment was not an administered contestable fund, the policy did not apply.
Act leader David Seymour said it was concerning that millions of dollars were being paid to clean up the Waikato River with no oversight or accountability.
"Money given as a result of Treaty settlements, as redress for past wrongs and with no conditions attached, is understandable. But in cases where public money is given for a particular purpose, the Government must follow up to ensure the money is being spent as it was intended," Seymour said.
Tarit board member Shane Gibbons said there was frustration among kaumātua that the SFO investigation into Pikia was taking so long.
"There are normal and official and legal remedies that beneficiaries have, and we're heading down one of those tracks at the moment [in the SFO investigation]," he said.
"The process of taking trustees to task can be elongated. The frustration that Te Arawa kaumātua were referring to was, in terms of the Treaty settlement arena, the thought was that there should be a mechanism that enables them to fast-track some of these grievances and issues."
Te Arawa River Iwi Trust chief executive Eugene Berryman-Kamp said that in terms of accountability, the board approved budgets and looked over monthly financial reporting.
Audited financial accounts went to the three beneficiary iwi annually.
He said there had been no concerns over any of those accounts but since the SFO investigation and subsequent media reporting, all three iwi had been in regular contact with Tarit.
Comment was sought from Pikia but he did not respond.