The Auditor General today issued a report criticising Te Puni Kokiri for allowing nearly a third of the money allocated to the Whanau Ora programme over its first four years to be spent on administration.
And the Auditor General, Lynn Provost, said it was not easy to find out exactly what Whanau Ora was or what it had achieved.
“We could not get a consistent explanation of the aims of the initiatives in Whanau Ora from the joint agencies or other people that we spoke to,” she said.
“So far, the situation has been unclear and confusing to many of the public entities and whanau.”
Labour’s Maori Development Spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta said it was worrying that the Auditor General’s office could not get a consistent explanation of the aims of Whanau Ora from the people they spoke to.
“It’s doubly disturbing that the writers of the report found that they were getting mixed signals from the government departments involved in Whanau Ora,” she said.
She said that though only $35.8 million was budgeted for administration over the period, $42.2 million had actually been spent out of total spending of $137.6 million.
Furthermore delays in spending meant that some of the funds originally intended for whanau and providers did not reach them.
She said that in her view, Te Puni Kokiri could have spent a greater proportion of funds on those people – whanau and providers – who Whanau Ora was meant to help.
Whanau Ora also relies on appropriate support from other agencies and the community. Without strong support from other government agencies, such as the Ministries of Health and Social Development, Whanau Ora is unlikely to succeed.
She is also heavily critical of the attitudes within both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development towards the programme.
“The signals currently sent by different parts of government are, at best, mixed<” she said.
“I have said before that being in the public service means serving the needs of people, and this is not my first report to describe systems that are a burden for their users.
“Te Puni Kokiri required whanau to be represented by a legal entity before funding them to prepare a plan to improve their lives.
“I question whether that requirement was necessary.”
Overall though she says the programme had been a success for many families who now had a plan to improve their lives.
“For example, some whanau are working towards getting their young people living and working on their ancestral land<” she said.
“The government spending to achieve this has been small, but the importance for the whanau is significant.
“Bringing whanau members together to prepare plans seems to have had benefits that are wider than the plans themselves.
“For example, reconnected whanau members not only provide each other with support but have also learned where skills and expertise already lie within the whanau.
“Some whanau have also gained shared experience in goal setting, planning, and managing projects and budgets”
She says the concept of whanau ora should not be abandoned.
“I have no doubt that some commentators will make light of the successes described in this report and make much of the criticisms.
However, an innovative idea should not be abandoned just because of implementation problems.
I earnestly hope that those involved with the next phase of Whanau Ora are able to take my criticisms on board and learn from them.”