Bill English will be mighty glad that Parliament is not sitting today as Derek Cheng’s story in the New Zealand Herald today paints an ugly picture of the way the decision was made to fund the Pacific Economic Development Agency. As Derek says
The trail of emails suggest Mr English approved the money without telling the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs or the Treasury.
In essence it was a complete by-passing of the proper process for Budget decisions. No cabinet paper, no scruitiny from officials. It was the kind of thing the Minister of Finance would never stand for from another Minister.
The person who does come out of the episode with credit is Pacific Island Affairs Chief Executive Colin Tukuitonga. He was prepared to raise concerns about PEDA’s lack of suitability and the weakness of what they were proposing. It is his Ministry that has now done the work to run the tender process, and PEDA has missed out.
There are many questions for Bill English to answer as to why he did this, what his links were with the people involved. He showed little interest in answering those sort of questions in Parliament earlier this year. He did give one interesting answer that we will follow up next year to an oral question from Phil Goff
Hon Phil Goff: Why does the Minister not simply come clean and acknowledge that he, rather than Mrs te Heuheu, negotiated this deal, and that it was done without the normal standards of transparency, accountability, and due diligence that should have been followed before he included the commitment to a specific untested agency in the Budget?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Because that is simply not correct.