Friday, December 09, 2005

Stoking the calls for resignation

Jon Stokes still hasn't read the Auditor General's report properly.

In his piece in the NZ Herald (payment required) stokes gives credit to Rongo Wetere for his achievement in building up Te Wananga o Aotearoa against the odds.

But the unbiased Mr Stokes shows he is a dab hand with a slant.

"In 2000, Mahi Ora, a course designed by Wetere's daughter, Susan Cullen, was offered. It actually appealed to the educational drop-outs at whom it was pitched. The dress-for-less of the tertiary sector was born.

"As the wananga grew, so did the murmurings about the quality of courses and standard of management. This week, a damning report from the Auditor-General showed that some of the concerns were valid. "

Auditor general: "We did not examine … the quality of courses delivered."

Back to Stokes: "The report fuelled calls for Wetere to resign. Dr Michael Cullen, the Minister for Tertiary Education, said Wetere should listen to those closest to him, and stand aside. And of course he must. Examples of conflicts of interest and shoddy decisions appear to have been rife."

"Appear to have been", until you dig deeper. Even the Auditor General couldn't keep his story straight on that one. His big scandal was the wananga spending $14.4 million buying and doing up the Glenview Tavern, site of the wananga's library. On page 44 it says a "recent valuation" puts the complex at $10 million (5.41). Yet in a handy chart on page 19, the Auditor General values a proposed sale swap of the Glenview complex at $25 million. Very shoddy, making decisions which bring a 60 percent return.

"A battle for control will come only at the expense of Wetere's mana and further increase the spiraling legal bills that his defiance has created."

How about the spiraling bills from the Crown coup? Up to $100,000 a month for the Crown manager. A further $80,000 a month on interest for the Crown loan. Not to mention the money lost through deliberate suppression of enrolments by the Crown team.

Stokes finishes his piece with some gratuitous kicks at the late Sir Robert Mahuta (never Sir Bob).

"Tainui has had its share of visionary leaders whose reputations have been shredded in futile attempts to cling to power. Wetere's relative, and former nemesis, Sir Bob Mahuta, shared the same traits.

"It was Sir Bob who ensured his tribe was hammered into some type of unity long enough to achieve its $170 million Treaty settlement. It was an impressive feat requiring buckets of mana, heavy connections, and a powerful can-do personality.

"Yet Sir Bob, who died in 2001, is not universally remembered for the settlement, arguably his greatest achievement. For many, including some within his Waikato tribe, there are bitter memories of the division and financial scandal that tarnished his final months at the helm. Sir Bob was a good leader, but not gifted with the management skills required when millions of dollars are poured into an organisation.

"Senior management positions were dished out based on whakapapa and blind loyalty. The consequences were devastating. The year Sir Bob died, Tainui wrote off about $42 million. This year, after consistent growth, a $20 million profit was posted. The brutal internecine fighting of that time has also faded."

As a historical overview, that rates a D.

As it stands, there is nothing in the Auditor General's report which would permit a legally constituted wananga council to sack Wetere, and even less the current council, which has advice it is illegal, could safely move on.

What is needed is to connect the dots - and that means going back a bit further, and looking a bit wider.


Blogger t selwyn said...

One of the few weapons left available is that of comparisons with other state-funded institutions. If Wetere could counter each accusation with a corresponding example would be useful... assuming there are some.

8:51 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

haha. Thank you for the attention Adam. If your blog was better read, and your opinion actually carried any weight, I would be flattered.
Can I suggest that when an organisation pays you to help out with spin doctoring, that it should involve more than petty digs via your blog.
Have been doing this job for a few years now, and regularly get the chance to read past coverage of Maori issues. For the life of me I have never come across any articles highlighting the prowess, you seem to have developed in hindsight.
Anyway, don't quit your day job bro!!

9:36 AM  
Blogger Adam said...

Hey Jon, it's not the job of the fourth estate to back the government.
Question. Who has broken any laws in this?
Clarification. Media advice and blogging are two completely separate activities. No charge for what's on the blog. You're welcome to take the advice though.

9:57 AM  

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