Red Alert

National backs their mates, again…

Posted by on May 26th, 2011

Last year the National government was roundly criticized for setting aside $4.8 million in the Budget to be allocated to the Pacific Development Agency (PEDA) without a competitive tender process.  Keep in mind that when first quizzed about it Bill English’s first reaction, as it so often is, was to deny the whole thing. It took months of investigative work by the NZ Herald to establish that in fact not only did English know all about it, it was inserted into the Budget at his behest and officials didn’t know what to make of it.

The NZ Herald also suggested at the time the funding was part of an English-inspired effort to secure greater support for National amongst pacific voters. In the end they were forced to back down and a competitive tender process resulted in PEDA missing out completely.

Did they learn their lesson? It seems not. This year’s Budget allocated $2.4 million to Parents Inc, once again without a competitive tender process. The chief executive of Parents Inc, Bruce Pilbrow, was the Deputy Commissioner of the Families Commission (appointed by Paula Bennett) until he resigned just two days before the Budget. Why wasn’t the contract put out for tender? When did Pilbrow find out Parents Inc was getting the funding?

At the very least it’s a bad look for the government to set funds aside for specific organisations without going through robust processes to ensure the taxpayer is getting value for money. It leaves them open to charges of cronyism and looking after their mates, but then again, there are plenty of other examples of where the National Party are doing just that!


35 Responses to “National backs their mates, again…”

  1. Evan says:

    Pilbrow claimed on Radio NZ this morning that he had resigned 6 months ago, but stuck around with the Families Commission to help with handover to his successor.

    But it is hard to forget that Parents Inc has a fundamentalist roots – and of course fundamentalists normally side with capitalists in anti-Socialist drives.

    Also from memory a previous CEO of Parents Inc switched to Maxim Institute which was not (to me) a good look. Maxim really is a fundamentalist outfit and I was shocked by what I read of them in “The Hollow Men”.

  2. Ian says:

    It should also be noted that in the very first weeks of the NACT government Tony Ryall cut a similar sum from the Health Promoting Schools programme, as this was perceived to be ‘administration’. That administration was the delivery of a programme that was evidence based, evaluated as effective by international academics.

    So, now we have Parents Inc being given $2.4 million to deliver their ‘education’, an approach which has been shown to be ineffective and unsustainable……

    sounds about right for this government.

  3. George says:

    Before criticising Parents Inc go and visit their website and look at the work they do and what they say. I don’t think many would disagree with what they’re advocating.

    I attended one of their meetings a few years ago and I was sorry that they weren’t around when my kids were smaller. They had a huge number of sensible ideas of how to deal with the day to day problems you face when bringing up children.

    I’ve also been along to a couple of their fathers’ breakfasts, and it was one of the few times when I felt I was at an event where my role as a father was being celebrated.

    By smearing them as fundamentalists you do them a great disservice.

  4. Hilary says:

    George, that’s not the point. The problem is that they were gifted $2.4million of our money without the required tender process whereby they would have to prove the value and effectiveness of their programme over those of any other provider. It is a huge amount of money to give to one organisation, especially for something as controversial as parenting courses (which are presumably aimed at those who are poorer, browner and more likely to be raising children alone and without the support of a those middle class men who attend cosy fathers’ breakfasts). If you go on the GETS website you will find that government contracts worth only about $20,000 have to go through a very transparent tendering process.

  5. Ian says:

    George, the problem with it is this; firstly, they go into communities offering their programme, it get accepted and run their programme.

    If someone comes to a community telling them what the communities problems are, without first identifying the root cause, no matter what you deliver, you will not change that behaviour.

    The problem is ‘what they say’ – they decide the ‘problem’ they decide the ‘solution’, or they decide ‘the content’ and how this should be facilitated – I would not want them teaching my intermediate age children; this is a role that a skilled, properly trained teacher should be delivering (for many schools they roll in Parents Inc as it frees time for National Standards!)

    Effective change, be that in schools, in communities or indeed individuals, only happens when a holistic approach is undertaken. People aren’t ‘bad’ parents, but many are living in hardship, with poor educational attainment, limited prospects and viewed negatively by the powers that be.

    All work should be based around these http://www.iuhpe.org/uploaded/Publications/Books_Reports/HPS_GuidelinesII_2009_English.pdf not ‘traditionalist’ beliefs.

  6. Ian says:

    Hilary, you also forgot to add that many of their parenting courses require an upfront payment ($67.50 for one, or $90 for two parents), or if you have the ‘Pio Show’ it is over $1000 and they encourage organisers to apply for charities money – yet again delivering on the basis of a belief system – a belief their approach will work, which it sadly doesn’t.

  7. Nick K says:

    @Hilary – that *was* the point.

    George was criticising the fundamentalist tag for Parents Inc. He is right. It is a fantastic organisation, and slurring them just shows some people’s colours.

  8. George says:

    those middle class men who attend cosy fathers’ breakfasts

    You clearly have great experience of these events, Hilary…

    I wonder what your comment would have been if my name was Georgina, and I’d said I’d attended a mothers’ lunch?

    In fact at both the events I attended the key speakers were brown (if colour is important for you), and the audience consisted of men from all walks of life. My company, like many others, paid for all fathers who worked for them to attend, regardless of position. From CEO down.

  9. Hilary says:

    George
    That is a fathers’ breakfast. It is not the ‘toolbox’ parenting course that this contract refers to.

    An open tender process might have resulted in the Parents Inc winning the contract. Whatever the outcome it would have been a transparent process and anyone could have asked to see the details of the panel’s deliberation. It would also have shown the public exactly what the Ministry’s criteria were for delivering the programme. The successful tenderer would probably have had to show how they met different cultural understandings of parenting, and how they would incorporate Treaty principles in their training and delivery. None of this was required for this gift of taxpayers’ money to a programme without any evidence base of research.

    We have a tender system to ensure fairness. When this process is subverted for any reason the Auditor General usually investigates. I hope they will this time.

  10. Draco T Bastard says:

    @Nick K & George

    You did notice the process was not open and transparent and didn’t go through the required tender process didn’t you? That’s the point of the post.

    Judeo-Christian
    An interesting history especially considering its connection to Conservative Right in American politics and their connection to Fundamentalist Christianity. In other words, as they describe themselves as fundamentalists I’d assume that it’s not an insult – just the truth.

    It’s not anyone else’s fault that fundies are delusional, authoritarian fuckwits.

  11. Ianmac says:

    The $2.4million was gifted without a tendering process. That’s taxpayers money without the checks and balances. End of story!

  12. Bea says:

    I visited their website. They use “parent” as a verb, so I’m against them.

  13. George says:

    You’ve got a point there, Bea! :)

  14. CrusaderCol says:

    So how do you compare this with Labour’s R & D policy of paying money to think up good ideas. Here, an entreprenerial bloke got an idea and built what was wanted, did it himself and reaped the rewards. I hope he makes millions from his idea.

  15. George says:

    Hillary / Ian – I was merely asking that just because there was no tender process before the government awarded this contract the organisation itself wasn’t smeared.

    In my opinion they’re a decent organisation, doing a good job in a very difficult space.

    Then Hillary jumps in with catty comments about the annual breakfasts they run, and I just wanted to clarify a few things(as someone who’d attended).

    I do realise that a box is different from a breakfast, Hil. It’s far more difficult to chew, for a start. And like some of the things written about here very difficult to swallow.

  16. Colonial Viper says:

    In my opinion they’re a decent organisation, doing a good job in a very difficult space.

    Then Paula Bennett better release the documents, audits and assessments which prove your opinion correct, showing that this matey organisation deserved $2.4M of tax payer funding without so much as having to bid for the work

  17. Draco T Bastard says:

    In my opinion they’re a decent organisation,

    They’re fundamentalists – ergo, not a decent organisation.

    When Mr Pilbrow says he deliberately cultivated relationships with ministers, what was the purpose — were business arrangements discussed?

    Got appointed to government, talked to ministers about the program, program bought without tender.

    The whole process stinks and it looks like Parents Inc. were the ones who initiated the corruption.

  18. George says:

    DtB – I’ve only attended a couple of things organised by Parents Inc, but I never got the impression they were fundamentalist in any way. You clearly have more knowledge/insight into that organisation than I do. Could you enlighten us all by explaining why you label them as fundamentalists?

    Chris H – DtB also appears to accuse Parents Inc of corruption. As the author of the original blog post you’ll clearly know a lot about the organisation. Is there any extent, in your opinion, to which they could be considered corrupt?

  19. Just Right says:

    Parents Inc are a stunning organisation providing straight forward Parenting support, which as a parent I find really helpful. Yes, they do some from a Judeo-Christian perspective.

    Coming from a Judeo-Christian perspective doesn’t make them fundamentalist. This is a meme pushed by those who are anti-christian.

  20. Hilary says:

    Now I see Minister Tariana Turia is taking hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the COGS fund which supports thousands of largely voluntary community groups to give huge grants to five personally selected groups without a tender process. If she did want groups to work together for a common purpose, the way to do it is ask them to collaborate and put in a joint tender for the work. A non-transparent process will only cause distrust and resentment.

  21. Draco T Bastard says:

    Coming from a Judeo-Christian perspective doesn’t make them fundamentalist. This is a meme pushed by those who are anti-christian.

    Actually, the Judeo-Christian meme was started by the fundamentalists so that they could by-pass the US constitutions rules about the state supporting any one religion.

  22. Just Right says:

    No Draco. You are missing the point. The meme is Christian = Fundamentalist. This is as untrue as Humanist = Satanist or Atheist= Anti-Christian

    The Christian = Fundamentalist meme is actually an attack on Christianity.

    The US was founded on the Judeo-Christian ethic

  23. tracey says:

    George I don’t recall your outrage at a VERY successful self defence (front line) programme having its funding cut. Notwithstanding the girls were emerging more self confidant and more likely to resist and report abuse of them?

    I agree that labels like (fundamentalist or commie or facist or whatever) aren’t useful.

    This government campaigned on transparency and acountability. Uncontested contract awards might be transparent, albeit disclosed within the murky depths of a budget. How do we know they are dispensing our money wisely if no tender process is used? I can’t believe any National supporters thought this was okay when Labour did it?

  24. tracey says:

    “In my opinion they’re a decent organisation, doing a good job in a very difficult space.”

    Then they would have withstood a tender process very ably.

  25. George says:

    I wasn’t implying that they wouldn’t have. I was merely sticking up for a decent organisation which was being defamed by someone who doesn’t appear to have any prior knowledge of them before this “issue” hit the streets…

    Still waiting for you to explain how they’re fundamentalist, DtB.

    And also for Chris to comment on whether he thinks they’re corrupt.

  26. Evan says:

    When I read this:

    “… the problem with it is this; firstly, they go into communities offering their programme, it get accepted and run their programme.

    If someone comes to a community telling them what the communities problems are, without first identifying the root cause, no matter what you deliver, you will not change that behaviour.

    The problem is ‘what they say’ – they decide the ‘problem’ they decide the ’solution’, or they decide ‘the content’ and how this should be facilitated … ”

    It sounds like its got plenty of “fundie” attributes to me!

    Another case in point – what is this about “I’ve also been along to a couple of their fathers’ breakfasts, and it was one of the few times when I felt I was at an event where my role as a father was being celebrated.”

    I am a father but I don’t see anyone needing to celebrate that. Most adult men are fathers. The idea of a segregated gender approach rather than a holistic approach seems 1950s stuff to me. There is a continuum of role definitions with parents these days – and it varies from family to family.

    I can’t think of Parents Inc without thinking of cheesy Ian Grant passing the salt. Ian Grant and Lockwood Smith – cheshire cats both.

  27. tracey says:

    Interesting balance to the Board… No one is all good or bad and same goes for an organisation. However Ian Grant and others involved in this and organisations they support do have firm views on a number of issues, whether that makes them fundamentalists I don’t know.

    I am trying to find some information at their website for helping sam sex couples deal with being parents. Nothing so far

  28. George says:

    Evan – I don’t think that Parents’ Inc are telling communities what their problems are to any greater extent than a myriad of other organisations do – incl Plunket, Banardos, the Sallies, the Labour Party and so on.

    What they do is to offer strategies, that parents can accept or reject, that may help them in the challenge to raise their kids in the best way possible.

    As far as fathering being celebrated I think there’s every need to do this. In the recent past fathers have often been treated, sometimes deliberately, sometimes accidentally, as less important in the parenting space than mothers. Holding an event a year in the three main centres to reinforce to fathers that their role is crucial, and that it’s often good to go with their natural parenting instincts rather than trying to turn themselves into some sort of ‘male mother’, is a valid thing to do.

    And no one is compelled to attend. If they don’t think that they need this sort of encouragement they can stay away. It’s called freedom of choice. You may need to look that concept up…

  29. tracey says:

    I agree fatherhood, in all its forms (married or unmarried) is worthy of celebration. I also think, while we are calling it as we see it, that violence is a male problem and we need to start getting men focusing on putting it right. Certainly there are violent women (as there are bad fathers) but we don’t call it a male violence problem, we say “we” (read all of society) has a violence problem. Until “we” accept and label it as what it is, it will be hard to break it down.

  30. Ian says:

    As I said before, the way they deliver stuff has repeatedly been shown to be ineffective – it doesn’t work, you do not get sustainable behaviour change, you don’t fix the problem.

    However, in contrast, an effective programme, where there are volumes of evidence, has the majority of its funding cut, again without any consultation; presumably based on the ideology of those making the cuts.

    Parents Inc. programmes may be nice to attend, may or may not be fundamentalist, but in my view there are better ways to use the tax payers money.

  31. George says:

    violence is a male problem and we need to start getting men focusing on putting it right

    Whilst there’s a way to go there’s a whole deal more acceptance of this issue than there was even a decade ago, and a huge number of men who support anti-violence campaigns. That it’s not uncool even for “men’s men” such as footie players to lend their weight to such campaigns shows how far we’ve come.

    I’m not scoring points here (the issue is far too important for that), but it’s very concerning that violence by females appears to be on the increase.

  32. tracey says:

    Fascinating article/critique of marriage and fatherhood organisations here;

    “…they elevated the role of “father” to make the presence of a father necessary for the formation of a healthy family. ”

    http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v23n1/marriage.html#5

  33. Marjorie Dawe says:

    I am really puzzled about another aspect of this shonkey deal. If this guy worked at a government commission and then developed a tool box during that time, would the intellectual property i.e. the toolbox, not belong to the government already. If that is the case, why are we paying such an exorbitant amount for something for which we already own the intellectual property?

  34. Richard the First says:

    Maybe he did it in his own time See Saw Marjorie Dawe. :D

  35. George says:

    Marj – I don’t think it’s suggested that he developed the box himself!

    He’s CEO of Parents Inc, and that organisation developed the box.

    Clear?