Problem for Problem Gambling Foundation

There was a flurry of criticism this morning when the Problem Gambling Foundation advised it was losing Ministry of Health funding for the bulk of it’s current services.

Trevor Mallard was quick off the mark.

Govt silences casino deal critic by axing funding

The Problem Gambling Foundation is being forced to shut its doors after losing government funding because it has vocally opposed National’s dodgy convention centre for pokies deal, Labour’s Internal Affairs spokesperson Trevor Mallard says.

It also appears that Mallard was wide of the mark. Criticisms have been premature.

The funding hasn’t been cut, it is being moved to a “superior” provider. From the Problem Gambling Foundation’s media statement Statement on Ministry of Health contracts:

While the Ministry describes PGF as a valued provider of quality services it has told PGF it has a superior offer for the clinical and public health services PGF provides.

Mallard acknowledges the change of service provider despite his “axing” headline:

“The Ministry of Health has said it has received a ‘superior contract bid’ but as the Foundation is the largest provider of problem gambling services in Australasia, it is hard to imagine a more qualified organisation to do this work.

“The Government’s deal with SkyCity stinks and the public knows it. An additional 350 pokie machines in Auckland will cause significant harm to the community.

“The Problem Gambling Foundation has spoken out about the dangers of this deal and are now paying the price.

“Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne and the Ministry of Health need to explain the reasons for this outrageous decision,” Trevor Mallard says.

Stuff explain in Problem Gambling Foundation loses Govt funding:

A spokesman from Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne’s office confirmed today that the other organisation was the Salvation Army.

The spokesman said the Salvation Army bid for the contract was more efficient, and offered more services and value for money.

It’s tough on the PGF but funds for services should be contestable. The Salvation Army have a record of providing a wide range of services – and they have also been critical of the Government.

Internal Affairs minister Peter Dunne and the Ministry of Health both “emphatically deny” any political involvement.

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1 Comment

  1. Peter Matthewson

     /  23rd March 2014

    The Government’s decision to cut funding to the Problem Gambling Foundation is an outrage. It reflects a callous disregard for the fact that the Problem Gambling Foundation is the largest provider of problem gambling services in the world, having served over 25,000 clients over the past 20 years. PGF is actively participating in research with the University of Auckland, has hosted several successful international conferences and its expertise is regularly sought for international consulting. A particular feature of PGF’s services is its much needed specialist Asian and Pasifika services.

    It is especially alarming that according to the report in this morning’s NZ Herald (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11224123) the decision to award PGF’s contract to the Salvation Army was reportedly a complete surprise to the Salvation Army!! Contrary to the reported comment from Peter Dunne’s spokesperson in Stuff, there was no Salvation Army bid. There was no proper process of tendering and evaluation of competing proposals from the two organisations. The Salvation Army had merely “applied for its usual amount of funding for gambling addiction services – between $1 million and $2 million”. Instead, the ministry decided that it would take over as the national provider” with funding of about $5 million.

    But it gets worse, the Herald item continues that the Salvation Army is “believed to be able to employ 12 more frontline staff than the foundation with the same amount of funding”, translation: the Ministry assumes (without any evidence in the form of a proposed budget) that the staff made redundant by PGF will be employed by the Salvation Army on lower salaries because a “religious” organisation requires its staff to work for love rather than money.

    The fact that this is all a big surprise to the Sallies suggests that it is highly unlikely that they will have their new services developed and staff employed ready to open when PGF close their doors on 30 June.

    Overall this constitutes incontrovertible evidence that this decision is indeed reprisal against PGF for their advocacy role, which despite Dunne’s denials was clearly confirmed by Tau Henare on Twitter (https://www.facebook.com/NZyounglabour/photos/a.114136175308671.18185.113385768717045/626802257375391/?type=3&theater) .

    This is the most blatant example yet confirming the findings of research by both Unitec and Victoria University, that civil society organisations increasingly feel gagged in their vital role of advocacy for social justice, for fear of losing Government contracts. This has been happening under both National and Labour led governments. The public and civil society must aggressively re-assert this role.

    In the immediate situation with PGF, the lack of proper process in this decision must be investigated by the Auditor General.

    Reply

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