Trust needs shakeup

Unlike many critics I refuse to accept that the Kohanga Reo National Trust is an organisation that reeks of corruption.

But the way it has been portrayed you would think that millions of taxpayers' dollars have been stolen.

Ernst and Young presented an independent financial report which clears the trust of any misappropriation.

The company says it has not identified any gaps in the controls governing the administration of funds on behalf of kohanga reo.

It is also clear about the trust's commercial arm Te Pataka Ohanga, saying that it is in effect a procurement entity that purchases for all kohanga reo.

The purchasing arrangements are reviewed against market prices and Ernst and Young is satisfied that even with a margin applied the charges are reasonable.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has now asked the Serious Fraud Office to investigate Te Pataka Ohanga but I will be surprised if it finds anything wrong.

This investigation of the kohanga trust was initiated after Maori Television current affairs show Native Affairs posed questions about it.

It was a brave move from the television programme to allege possible misappropriation, particularly given the trust has three of Maoridom's finest exponents of the Maori language at its helm - Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, Timoti Karetu and Wharehui Milroy.

All three are considered icons, they have been great leaders in terms of the Maori language, so to challenge their credibility required a lot of courage.

Native Affairs made a decision to put up that challenge and while I think it could have done things better and treated people with more respect, it has been proven right.

Not right as yet in terms of any misappropriation but certainly in terms of the kohanga trust needing a real shake up and restructure.

Having lifetime trustees is ridiculous; the trust needs more of our younger practitioners, especially at board level.

And we have to see a better investment strategy from the kohanga trust.

It's crazy that it is banking millions while too many from the trust are in a dilapidated state around the country.

These things need to be fixed fast because not only are rednecks hammering its credibility at the moment but plenty of Maori are too.

The frustration for me is that I'm watching one of Maoridom's great initiatives getting sliced up.

Meanwhile the Big Boys, especially finance companies in this country, continue to swindle your average Kiwi for millions.

It's disgraceful the amounts of money we are talking about - hundreds of millions of dollars in some cases - and any alleged misappropriation at the kohanga trust just pales into insignificance.

But the critics, particularly the rednecks, will continue to make out that the crime of the century is happening so I hope the kohanga trustees can rectify things as soon as possible.

Manukau Courier