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Change Of Approach For Controversial Budget Funding

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Aug 20 NZPA - A controversial $4.8 million budget allocation earmarked for the Pacific Economic Development Agency (Peda) will now be contested by a range of other organisations.

The funding was allocated uncontested to Peda, a relatively new agency set up to upskill young Pacific Islanders and improve the welfare of their Auckland communities.

Labour MP Su'a William Sio spent weeks pressuring Pacific Island Affairs Minister Georgina te Heuheu to explain why the funding went uncontested to Peda when the ministry had warned that backing such an untested organisation carried risks.

Finance Minister Bill English defended the situation at the time, saying the process had been transparent and no money would change hands until there was an agreed contract setting out what was expected.

Both ministers' offices directed comment to Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs chief executive Colin Tukuitonga today.

Dr Tukuitonga told NZPA the change of approach was a decision made by himself. "I've decided I could get better value for the Government out of this money by following this process, involving more people focusing on unemployment among young people..."

He said while he was aware of controversy over the original uncontested nature of the allocation, it was his own decision to adjust that process.

"I need to satisfy myself without any influence from anyone else that this is the right thing to do."

Dr Tukuitonga said he had taken it upon himself to contact other prospective organisations and it was now more than likely the funding would be split. "Peda is still part of the negotiations and I expect they will be part of the overall package -- with a number of other providers -- when the process is over."

The ministry would soon invite tender applications from other agencies and organisations in Auckland including the Pasifika Education Centre, the Pacific Business Trust, the Village Trust and C-Me Mentoring. "In the selection process we will be looking for a cost-effective, well developed and compelling business plan. The organisations should also have a good reputation and a track record for delivering Pacific youth orientated programmes."

Mr Sio said today it had taken "three months and the glare of parliamentary scrutiny for the Government to finally come to the realisation" that it was wrong to earmark the funding for Peda uncontested, meanwhile Pacific communities were languishing with 14.1 percent unemployment.

Dr Tukuitonga said the ministry expected to have final proposals by late September.

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