Parata calls for SFO probe into trust subsidiary

Hekia Parata
Pita Sharples
Jordan Williams, Taxpayers' Union executive director

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Education Minister Hekia Parata has asked the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to investigate Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust subsidiary Te Pataka Ohanga (TPO) after further information has come to light suggesting the subsidiary may have misused spending.

Last night Ms Parata and Associate Education Minister Pita Sharples released the independent review of Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust by EY, which says the trust’s financial controls are effective.

However, Taxpayers Union executive director Jordan Williams called the late-night press conference by the ministers “shameful” and said the EY review did not scrutinise the key allegations directed at the subsidiary, Te Pataka Ohanga (TPO).

Existing allegations claimed public money meant for education was used by individuals for clothing, fuel and cash withdrawals. Today Ms Parata says more information has come to light during the past 12 hours and she has asked SFO to investigate.

At the time this was being written, Ms Parata had said she had sent information to SFO but the SFO communications office said no complaint had been received yet.

In 2012, roughly $92 million in public funding was received by, or passed through the Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust, which has contracts with the Ministry of Education and the Tertiary Education Commission where it is paid to deliver services.

However, TPO is a subsidiary organisation owned entirely by the trust.

“The Ministry of Education does not have any contractual or financial relationship with Te Pataka Ohanga,” Ms Parata said in an earlier statement.

Ms Parata won’t give details about her request for an SFO investigation, such as the amount of money involved or whom the allegations might be aimed at.

The Serious Fraud Office investigates a variety of circumstances, such as multi-victim investment fraud, fraud involving those in important positions of trust, matters of bribery and corruption and any other case that could significantly damage New Zealand’s reputation for fair and free financial markets without corruption.

The SFO usually investigates fraud of over $2 million but it will investigate under that threshold for other reasons, such as the factual, legal and financial complexity of the alleged fraud, or the preventative impact of a successful prosecution on the wider fraud landscape in New Zealand.

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