Sunday, 17 March 2013

“The problems are solved, not by giving new information, but by arranging what we have known since long.”

If you want to know what is going  on with Te Runanga o Ngati Awa go to your hapu meeting.

Or at least that was the message from Te Runanga o Ngati Awa through chief executive Enid Ratahi-Pryor at the special meeting held at Wairaka Marae on March 6.

And she is right but here is my problem. I went to my hapu meeting. I got given a copy of the key point summary of the TRONA board meeting that was held last month.
However that report does not match my recollection of the meeting.

Where was the mention of the Audit Committee report and the potential workshop? Or the media threat and new embargo policy? Or the adoption of the new conflict of Interest policy? Or even the discussion of this blog?
There was none of the controversial stuff, instead what is in there is all of the feel-good stuff that paints the runanga out to be doing a good job, but how is this fair?

Don’t get me wrong, the runanga is making some positive moves in some areas and I am really glad of that but there are also some very concerning signs and I would feel better if we had a bit more of an idea about what is going on.

I mean how do you lose $5.2 million in less than five years and no-one is held to account?
I for one would prefer a copy of the minutes to be given to hapu delegates that way we know what motions have been passed and what has been discussed at the meeting.

And while some of you may say and think that it is the job of our hapu delegate to inform us, I have serious doubts about the sharing of information that exists within the runanga’s structure.
Bear with me and I will explain my reasoning.

At that meeting at Wairaka Marae, Mrs Ratahi-Pryor had come armed.
Rather than adhering to outline that had been identified by those in attendance she made a presentation.

She began by outlining the structure of runanga, pointing out that board chairman Te Kei Merito is her boss.
“Your link is through the board. (Chairman) Te Kei Merito is my boss. I actually link directly to Te Kei. Initially I didn’t have a link to the hapu but im going to change that. That is why I am here,” she said.

She said it was part of a new initiative to “walk among the people”.
“It is about me coming to put some reality to some of the korero… This evening is about starting a journey, a journey of discovery.

“I have heard that many of the voices aren’t being heard and that is why I’m here…. Much of what I’m hearing is about accountability, transparency and responsibility.”
She then launched into plans to relocate the runanga’s offices from Ngati Awa House on Louvain Street.

Explaining the offices were too big because of the scaling back of staff she said Ngati Awa House could be leased out and earn a rent.
The property has been registered with a real estate agents and when a tenant is found then the runanga’s offices will be relocated.

Mrs Ratahi-Pryor said management was considering three options: the army hall near the wharf, the old court-house building or some other site.
However according to Mrs Ratahi-Pryor the army hall site was too valuable for offices and it could be used to build a boutique hotel, shops or an office building to be leased out.

Turning her attention to the court-house and the strip of land behind it, she explained that this site was considered very viable because of the proximity to the wharenui.
“There is a Mataatua and we believe we need to be near Mataatua so that it can be kept alive and warm.”

She then went on to say the runanga could not afford to build new offices at the moment but it was hoped that they would one day and the tentative plans are to develop the land next to the court-house.
This is land that is currently being used for affordable iwi housing to uri from Ngati Hokopu ki Wairaka, Ngati Hokopu ki Hokowhitu and Wharepaia.

Mrs Ratahi-Pryor said a new office could be paid for by using the land more effectively.
“Currently we are trying to use the assets of Ngati Awa more efficiently.

“We haven’t yet come to any firm idea as to what the triangle will look like. I’m not into turfing our people out but it is about development.”
Situated in the heart of Wairaka, the news that runanga had plans to develop this land shocked many at the meeting.

There had always been the rumours that the runanga was looking at developing this land and there it was clearly outlined on a schematic plan.
But, she said, nothing had been confirmed yet because she knew that things were likely get more difficult once Ngati Hokopu knew for sure.

And now here is where it gets interesting.
Mrs Ratahi-Pryor said once a tenant is found for Ngati Awa House, the runanga could move into the court-house because the TRONA board had signed off on it and no resource consent was needed.

“Yes, we could move in tomorrow if we wanted to.”
However Ngati Hokopu ki Wairaka delegate Charlie Bluett disputed the claim that the board had passed a resolution allowing this to happen. He said that was not his recollection.

Mrs Ratahi-Pryor was confident this was so and was supported in her stance by TRONA deputy-chairman Pouroto Ngaropo, who had also attended the meeting. And as further evidence she said she would get a copy of the minutes of that meeting and give it to Ngati Hokopu.                                                                   
Ngati Hokopu ki Wairaka still have not received a copy of the minutes or any evidence of the resolution and I have spoken to another board member who agrees with Mr Bluett’s assertion. So who has the right recollection? Hopefully Mrs Ratahi-Pryor will remember to send the minutes soon so that we can see.
And hopefully this explains my doubt around whether the right information is coming out of the runanga.

I mean, did you know that Graham Pryor is the head of the Investments Committee and Brian Tunui is the new chairman of the Audit Committee? But more about that later.
Ma te wa.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Taking back the power

The chairman of Ngati Awa’s financial arm approved a $3.8 million contract with a carbon management company without gaining his board’s approval first.
Outlined in an Audit Committee report, the incident was described as “a serious breach in the organisation’s internal controls”.

The report had been based on an audit by the international accounting firm, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, that was commissioned to review the financial reports of Te Runanga o Ngati Awa (TRONA) and Ngati Awa Group Holdings Ltd (NAGHL).
“This is in regard to the (NAGHL) chairman and a NAGHL director not following prescribed processes for investment decisions and not obtaining the required NAGHL board approval,” the report noted.

NAGHL is the subsidiary which takes care of the tribe’s financial assets. It is governed by a five-person board and chaired by formal civil servant Wira Gardiner.
According to the report Sir Gardiner and NAGHL director Graham Pryor executed the $3.8 million contract with CO2 New Zealand Management Company without first taking it to the NAGHl board for approval.

At the time Mr Pryor was also a director of the carbon management company that had received the contract.
“The director advised the chairman that the board had some time approved the contract. There is no documentary evidence (minutes or other record) to evidence apart from a “heads of agreement” with CO2 that had been signed much earlier and pror to due diligence and legal review.”

In addition Mr Pryor also failed to pass on legal advice received by him but addressed to the board. The advice, which was about the situation, raised serious issues concerning the suitability of the investment and contract for Ngati Awa.
It was also noted that there has been poor documentation in regard to services provided in lieu of repayment of a loan balance. The loan was not disclosed in the report.

As a result the Audit Committee requested a policy around conflicts of interest be drafted. The report was presented to the Te Runanga o Ngati Awa board at the meeting in November.
At the board meeting in February the chief executive of Te Runanga o Ngati Awa, Enid Ratahi-Pryor, presented the Conflict of Interest policy.

Mrs Rātahi-Pryor said the runanga was in danger because it didn’t have a policy around this area. She asked the board to approve it in principle and she would return at the next meeting with feedback.

“The runanga does not have a policy and this places the runanga at risk.”
She also said that she had commissioned her own independent report.

“I’m surprised about PWC, that they didn’t go down to these levels and identify places where changes could be made… I’m concerned that there was a $900,000 budget blowout in previous years.

“Rogue spending is quite easy by the CEO but we just need to know how they get through the systems. I know how they got through the systems.”
It was also noted by Nga Maihi representative Regina O’Brien that the board had failed to discuss the report in any comprehensive manner at the previous meeting.

“The audit report got five minutes because we were in a hurry to go to lunch.”
Her point was backed by Poroporo kaumatua and board member Joe Mason, who acknowledged that the report had raised important points.

“The audit committee meeting report needs to be considered by the board. It is important document and it deserves consideration by the board. There is no harm however in a special meeting to have a look at the document.
“There are some important recommendations in the document. There is no harm, if there is a special take, of calling a special meeting.”

The board elected to discuss the report at a workshop to be held at a later date.
Ok, with all that explained the big questions for me are: is Graham Pryor still a director of NAGHL? And what processes are there so that individuals cannot spend tribal money without first gaining approval?

This makes it two more questions for Mrs Ratahi-Pryor to answer at the meeting with Ngati Hokopu to be held at Wairaka Marae tonight.
Which brings us to the meeting and I have to commend Mrs Ratahi-Pryor for wanting to come.

I have already posed several questions through this blog and I can assure there will be many from others in the crowd tonight. Some will be uncomfortable.

There are not many who would stand in the face of criticism and offer to explain how it went so bad. I think it goes a long way that Mrs Ratahi-Pryor is willing to come and answer our questions kanohi ki te kanohi.
I also applaud her decision to conduct her own audit. Obviously she is also concerned about some of the tribe’s expenditure.

And clearly the terms of reference for the audit by PWC did not include the decisions around investments or any of the processes around it, it just looked at the financial recordings.
But it must also be remembered Mrs Ratahi-Pryor was a board member and a director on NAGHL when a lot of this spending was going on – if she didn’t know what was going on, what hope do we have?

We are the people and I reckon it’s time we took back the power.