LATEST: A series of Government ministers met with the tax-payer funded trust now at the centre of a police investigation.
Taeaomanino Trust Operations manager Ifopo So'o was dismissed in March 2009 after he admitted stealing around $107,000.
An investigation by forensic accountants Deloitte later revealed a series of other allegations about inflated expense claims, senior managers employing relatives and staff leave.
However, less than a year later the trust was awarded government contracts thought to be worth up to $1.7m by the Social Development Ministry.
Prime Minister John Key met staff members of Trust earlier this year, its annual report reveals. The Trust was invited to participate in a business expo organised by National MP and Mana by-election candidate Hekia Parata and the Pacific Business Trust.
Chief Executive Gerardine Clifford said in the report: "The Prime Minister's parting comment, 'I will definitely remember you guys' along with the wonderful photos was a talking point for many months after."
Pacific Island Affairs, Georgina Te HeuHeu visited the Kenepuru-based trust to launch a Youth Initiatives Programme.
And Maori party co-leader Tariana Turia was a guest. "This was a wonderful opportunity for us to find out first hand, what the Minister's intentions are for Whanau Ora and how Pacific peoples fit into this picture. We spent some time talking about the Pacific model of care that we developed at Taeaomanino."
The trust was announced as a Whanau Ora provider in October. It is thought the contract is worth up to $1m.
It was also awarded a Family Start contract in June, thought to be worth around $500,000.
The Government first became aware of allegations about Taeaomanino in February 2009, when a worried social worker contacted Finance Minister Bill English.
The correspondence was forwarded on to Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.
In November 2009 the Deloitte report - commissioned by MSD - revealed a series of allegations about founder Paula Masoe - who is married to Mr So'o.
MSD yesterday said the allegations did not "warrant laying a complaint with police".
Police launched an investigation into the missing money in August after another community service organisation alerted them.
Bennett is currently overseas and Judith Collins is acting Minister. A spokeswoman said she was unable to comment because there is a police investigation underway.
Key said Whanau Ora contract providers had to go through a rigorous process. "That trust will have had to go through the same scrutiny that all of the other providers have and on that basis I'd be confident they have met their obligations there."
A spokeswoman for Tariana Turia, the Minister responsible for Whanau Ora, said: "Minister Turia has absolute confidence in the Trust and is more than confident that a rigorous and robust process was followed when determining the successful Whanau Ora providers."
National's Mana by-election candidate Hekia Parata, who has received support from senior managers at the Trust, said she was only aware of the good work the Trust had done in the community.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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