INDEPENDENT NEWS

New Information Reveals HFA Spending Cover Up

Published: Wed 8 Sep 1999 04:09 PM
New Zealand First has revealed that the Health Funding Authority and the Government have concealed a serious breach of public spending processes over the way the HFA fitted out and furnished new offices throughout New Zealand.
In May this year there was a public outcry over the way the HFA leased and furnished luxurious offices at a cost of $7.5 million in the old Bank of New Zealand building in central Wellington.
An audit commissioned by the HFA at the time was critical of some of the processes followed, saying that they did not follow good practice.
However, the New Zealand First Leader, Rt Hon Winston Peters, said today that the audit, and subsequent statements by the HFA and the government did not reveal the true extent of the breaches of process, involving large expenditure.
“At the time much of the focus centred on the prices paid for office chairs and many of the underlying issues were not publicly exposed.
“From information that we have received, there appears to have been a pattern of avoiding the normal consultative and tender process that Government-funded organisations are required to adhere to.
“Further, the so-called ‘independent’ audit which was carried out after the public outcry was actually an INTERNAL audit carried out by the HFA’s own internal auditors and was confined to a few selected staff and board members.
“Our information indicates that there was no tender process for the expenditure of large sums of public money, and that there was no proper management of the new office project.
“As a result , as much as $4 million of taxpayers’ money, which could have funded hundreds of operations in public hospitals, has been possibly wasted.
“This has been drawn to the attention of the Health Minister but he appears to have accepted the HFA’s interpretation of its own narrow audit.”
Mr Peters said that he had referred the matter, with supporting evidence, to both the Auditor-General and the Solicitor General.
“The Health Funding Authority, under its Chairman Graham Scott, is responsible for spending considerable sums of public health money.
“The HFA staff are spending too much of this money on themselves and are not being accountable for the processes they are following,” said Mr Peters.
An attempt by the New Zealand First Chief Whip, Ron Mark, to table a copy of the Health Funding Authority Audit in Parliament this afternoon was blocked by the Government.
“This was just another move to avoid public exposure of this issue,” said Mr Peters.
Ends

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