Kiro under fire for costly overseas trips

Last updated 01:11 06/03/2008

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Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro has been criticised for failing to deliver two important reports while her office spent more than $150,000 on travel.

Opposition MPs quizzed Dr Kiro yesterday on why she attended eight overseas conferences in the 2006-07 financial year, while her office faced a 50 per cent turnover of staff and struggled to complete work.

Seven of the commission's 14 fulltime staff left during the 2006-07 year.

Figures show the commissioner's office spent $153,096 on travel and accommodation in the 12-month period, including $23,107 on a trip to conferences in Greece, Sweden and the United States.

During the select committee hearing, National Party MP Judith Collins asked why Dr Kiro had travelled so extensively when her office had not been able to complete its annual report card on child poverty and a United Nations compliance review.

"It's very difficult to maintain staff morale and staff focus and get the work done if the leader is away," Ms Collins said after the hearing.

But Dr Kiro told the committee the two reports "were among many projects". The report card had not been delivered because her office did not want to replicate Social Development Ministry and Paediatric Society reports.

Technology enabled her to remain in regular contact with staff and her absence had not affected the office's performance, she said. "

I certainly was very, very publicly out there and the work programme continued."

Opposition MPs also quizzed her on what practical benefits the trips had brought. She replied that significant networking opportunities had arisen, particularly from meeting children's advocacy leaders.

She had also been an ambassador for New Zealand's Family Group Conference system.

A spokeswoman said the office's $153,096 travel and accommodation bill included domestic and international travel for all staff, including Auckland employees.

But last night Ms Collins said Dr Kiro should focus on New Zealand children, as she was employed to do.

Dr Kiro's contract was up for renewal this year and a closer examination of the commissioner's role was needed, Ms Collins said.


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- The Dominion Post

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