Team NZ accounts disappear into a black hole

SIMON PLUMB AND TONY WALL
Last updated 05:00 24/03/2013

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A Sunday Star-Times investigation reveals an alarming lack of oversight of the $36 million funding deal between the Government and Team New Zealand.

Papers released under the Official Information Act reveal that, for more than a year, the Grant Dalton-led America's Cup team failed to provide the quarterly reports it was supposed to send in order to receive payments.

But no-one from the Ministry of Economic Development followed up on the lapse and Dalton said in an email that earlier reports the team had sent had "disappeared into a black hole" at the ministry.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce told the Star-Times he was concerned to ensure that Team NZ was meeting all of its obligations "and there is not . . . a lack of accountability for government money". "I will be asking officials for a full report on the accountability to date, and may make further inquiries depending on the information contained in that report."

The ministry told the Star-Times the delays in Team NZ providing information were an "administrative oversight". During the time in question, 2010-2011, it remained in telephone contact with Team NZ and no issues were raised that required action. The ministry claimed the main information it required, proof that Team NZ had raised $2 of sponsorship for every $1 of government money, was provided on time.

But the Star-Times has learned that other information, including a summary of activities utilising government money and a report on expenditure against budget, was not provided.

Joyce said the deal with Team NZ was made by the previous Labour Government at a time when "money was thought to grow on trees" and National would not have entered into the same contract. The Government had investigated cancelling or altering the agreement but could not for legal reasons.

Dalton told the Star-Times that Team NZ had provided all the information it had been asked to and he was not aware of any outstanding issues.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman accused the Government of being "asleep at the tiller" and said it had failed to implement basic accountability measures. Failure to provide the quarterly reports appeared to be a breach of the team's contract with the Government.

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