“Today in the Social Services Select Committee it was revealed that the Ministry for Social Development has spent $5.907m of misappropriated spending on accommodation assistance in the past five years, what’s worse is that they knew about it for three years and did nothing,” says ACT’s Social Development spokesperson Karen Chhour.

“MSD had been wrongfully applying accommodation supplements that were not in accordance with the Social Securities Act since 1993. They realised their mistake in 2019, but didn’t bother to alert the Auditor-General until May 2022.

“ACT supported legislation to fix this problem. What is concerning is that it took MSD three years to tell anyone about the misappropriated funding.

“I asked Chief Executive of MSD Debbie Power about this during the department's Annual Review. While she admitted they need to do inform people when issues arise in the future, she also used the Government’s go to excuse and blamed COVID for it not happening at the time.

“It is also important to know when the Minister knew about this. If she had any inkling of misappropriated spending occurring within her department it is important she acted swiftly to fix it.

“If Government departments are willing to hide matters such as this, then what else are they hiding? The core notion of public service is that taxpayers pay (too much) tax in exchange for a service. It is important that they know where their money is going.

“Because after all it is their money, something that is often forgotten by Labour and various Government departments who treat the taxpayers base like cash cows for whatever they like.

“There needs to be greater accountability from the public service. Mistakes happen, but it is unacceptable for them to be covered up or for them to continue happening knowingly.”

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Karen Chhour