Ministry mum on gambling foundation evaluation

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 05:00 05/06/2014

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The Ministry of Health is refusing to provide details of how it evaluated services for the Problem Gambling Foundation.

The foundation began legal action last month to stop the ministry dumping it as the national provider for gambling harm services, in favour of the Salvation Army.

Critics of the decision have said it was politically motivated; a punishment for the foundation, which opposed the Government's SkyCity convention deal. The ministry and Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne have both denied that, but ministry deputy director-general for sector capability and implementation Cathy O'Malley will not provide the evaluations of both providers' performances.

"I have decided that it is necessary to withhold this information to enable the ministry to carry out, without prejudice or disadvantage, commercial activities and contract negotiations," she said. "My reasons for withholding this information are not outweighed by other considerations which render it desirable, in the public interest, to make the information available."

The ministry has issued six-monthly reports from the providers, but would not detail the scores given by ministry officials.

Foundation chief executive Graeme Ramsey said he was surprised. He knew its scores from the ministry were "in the bottom third" across all 20 providers in each marking category.

This was despite a 2011 analysis by management consultant KPMG, which said the foundation had improved its performance to 100 per cent of its service targets in 2010. Ramsey believed transparency would be beneficial.

"I would have thought it would be helpful for the public to see how they might possibly have reached that decision, because we certainly don't understand it."

The latest rebuff comes after official documents showed the foundation and the ministry were embroiled in a long-running argument over the foundation's right to speak out on gambling issues.

The ministry threatened to terminate its contract if the foundation did not halt its "pokie free and proud of it" campaign, promoting pokie-free pubs.

It argued that no public money should be spent, or be seen to be spent, on political campaigns.

But the foundation has got a reprieve till the court action ends, with the ministry confirming its funding will remain till February.

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- The Dominion Post

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