Whānau Ora surplus questions raised at TPK review

By Talisa Kupenga

Te Puni Kōkiri appeared before the Māori Affairs Select Committee today for its annual review where questions were raised about the allocation of surplus funds under the Whānau Ora scheme.

Money and where it did not go dominated discussions, with answers sought about the $600,000 surplus National’s Jo Hayes says went back to shareholders and not to families.

Te Puni Kōkiri chief executive Michelle Hippolite says, "it is not the intended purpose that there is a drive to deliver cash back to the owners of the entities that have been set up."

Hayes says "if you have a surplus- I've been a Māori provider with government contracts- if you cannot spend it you must reinvest it."

It's a concern for Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare who says he plans to meet with shareholders on Friday.

"That's the foundation of the Whānau Ora inquiry…I would prefer to see that money reinvested."

Hippolite says, "I've got to talk with the commissioning agencies to find out what has happened and if it applies everywhere or just in one or two scenarios and plan to follow that up."

There were disputes around a $5.2mil underspend and whether funds were adequately allocated from the year’s $37mil budget.

National’s Māori development spokesman Nuk Korako says, "Why have they got an underspend?  What that tells me is that strategies and policies are not working because you shouldn't have an underspend."

Hippolite says, "If the amount that's not fully expended, as in did not leave our bank account to someone else’s bank, it got transferred into this financial year because it is going to go out of our bank this year to meet the contract agreements of the contracts."

The slow reduction of contractors was also raised which Hippolite says TPK is still working to reduce.