Serious Fraud Office to investigate Te Pātaka Ōhanga

By Maiki Sherman

Despite the Minister's audit report avoiding the allegations of misspending within Te Pātaka Ohanga, there was no avoiding the pressure that would follow.

Hekia Parata states, “In the last twelve hours we have become aware of unsubstantiated as yet but allegations nevertheless that continue about Te Pātaka Ohanga and as a result Dr Sharples' and I have referred those to the Serious Fraud Office.”

According to Hekia Parata, the latest allegations regard "misspending" and it involves "a range" of people.

The allegations regarding Te Pātaka Ohanga were not part of the audit investigation, and neither the Minister nor the board representatives wanted to discuss the matter, despite our questions.

The Kōhanga Reo National Trust says Te Pātaka Ohanga is a private company with charitable status, not its commercial arm.

However, according to Te Pātaka Ohanga's constitution, it was established solely to manage the economic activities of the National Trust. Also, all profits not reinvested in the company are transferred to Te Kōhanga Reo or an approved charity.

As a result of this, some Kōhanga whānau want answers to allegations of misspending, essentially for financial transparency.

In terms of the report by the Ministry of Education, there are three recommendations:

  • A review of credit card policy and controls.
  • Segregation of duties for processing changes to accounts payable and payroll master data.
  • Maintenance of payroll supporting documentation.

As well as that, a $50,000 koha was also noted as having been given to a board member for work on the Kōhanga Reo Treaty claim.

It was a koha that was supposed to have been included in the related party transaction disclosures in their annual report, but wasn't. It's known that by paying via koha, paying tax is avoided.

So there are currently two investigations underway of Te Pātaka Ohanga, meaning Kōhanga Reo will have to wait a bit longer for clarity on the issue.