28 Jun 2012

No fraud at refuge, says Hamilton group

8:42 pm on 28 June 2012

A Palmerston North refuge for Maori women which has come under fire from a politician over alleged financial irregularities was not involved in any fraud, says another refuge group brought in to help staff sort through the problems.

New Zealand First Party leader Winston Peters has attacked the Government for its failure to act over the Palmerston North-based refuge.

An audit of the refuge shows it made a loss of more than $100,000 last financial year, and there were a number of unauthorised transactions.

But Ruahine Albert from the Hamilton Maori Women's Refuge says its own people were called in to help the tired and stressed staff in Palmerston North about 2 months ago.

At the time, they did not know about the audit.

She says there were problems at the Palmerston North refuge with bonuses of about $5000 - which have been repaid - and with workers being paid out for unused leave from the past 10 years.

Ms Albert says the refuge personnel have been cleared of any fraud, and a further forensic audit is being carried out in the hope that it will be able to regain its funding.

The National Collective of Womens' Refuges also says it's disappointed the Government has criticised it over how it handled the problems of one of its affiliated refuges.

Associate Social Development MinisterTariana Turia met her officials on Thursday to discuss the improper spending by a Palmerston North refuge, which had received government funds.

Ms Turia earlier said she thought the national collective would have been able to help the refuge, Te Roopu Whakaruruhau o Nga Wahine.

But the Womens' Refuge chief executive, Heather Henare, says the support it offered to the refuge following a critical audit report was rejected.

Mrs Turia has since released a statement saying the issues with the Palmerston North refuge are operational and the Ministry of Social Development is following them up.