3 Jun 2014

New audit of Maori care provider

9:52 pm on 3 June 2014

An independent auditor has been appointed to a South Auckland trust accused by New Zealand First of misappropriating funds and the trust chairman has stepped down from its board.

The chair of Te Roopu Taurima O Manukau, John Marsden, has stepped down and the Serious Fraud Office is assessing whether to investigate a complaint against the trust.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters last month released evidence which he said showed improper processes, questionable payments and doctored invoices at the Te Roopu Taurima O Manukau Trust, which got $30.6 million in 2013 to help disabled people.

On 29 May, trust representatives met with the Ministry of Health, which agreed to engage a forensic auditor to assess the trust's financial situation.

Former staff have spoken out about car and maintenance spending, triggering a police investigation.

An interim chair would be appointed to the trust. In addition, consumer advocate David Russell has been appointed to the board as an adviser. Two management advisers would also be appointed to support chief executive Malcolm Robson.

Shane Te Pou, who previously served on the trust's board, said told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme the decision to investigate the trust's books is the right one.

"It won't take much to find the issues - they are horrific - and I just can't say how poorly this has been handled by the management of the trust."

Te Roopu Taurima O Manukau is the country's only provider of services for the intellectually disabled delivered under a Maori framework, respecting the cultural needs of Maori. It has 300 clients and employees 500 staff with homes in Auckland, Northland, Waikato and Canterbury.