A word from Jacqui Dean, MP for Waitaki

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Lack of accountability on $1.2b scheme staggering

Every person in Central Otago is accountable to someone – whether it’s your boss, your partner or the bank. Politicians are no different: we are accountable to the public who elect us into office, something I think this government needs to be reminded of.

In my role, it is quite common for a member of the public to make contact with me asking for help in dealing with a government department, navigating rules and regulations, or to get answers to something that’s worrying them.

I’m always happy to go into bat for local people and my office staff and I take great pride in reaching a resolution or finding the information or answers they need.

Sometimes dealing with officials is fairly straightforward but other times it’s incredibly frustrating.

This is particularly the case when trying to get straight answers from government ministers.

What I’ve noticed these past few years is that information that should be made readily available has not been forthcoming, or when it has been released to me, it has left me shaking my head in disbelief.

In my office in Wellington, I have what I call “a wall of transparency”.

It’s a bit tongue in cheek because the documents pinned to it are far from transparent.

I have screeds and screeds of paper with blocked-out sections of text that have been sent to me in response to my Official Information Act requests.

Why large parts of government documents need to be blocked out when there is clearly no national security risk beggars belief.

These documents primarily relate to the Government’s $1.2billion Jobs for Nature programme which has so far failed to deliver the jobs it promised and has fallen well short when it comes to widely accepted standards of reporting.

I have worked hard to scrutinise the spending and delivery for this project but the degree of obfuscation I’ve encountered has made this difficult. So much so that I recently wrote to the office of the auditor-general requesting that it conducts a review of the programme.

The lack of accountability for what is over a billion dollars of borrowed Covid-19 response and recovery money is staggering and unacceptable to me.

This Government has gone down a pathway that is far from transparent.

Whether that’s because it knows it hasn’t delivered on its promises or whether its sheer arrogance

What I do know is that the people of Central Otago and New Zealand deserve better.