Auditor-General critical of Provincial Growth Fund

Yesterday morning Shane Jones promoted job creation due to the Provinciakl Growth Fun – see Questionable Provincial Growth Fund job claims.

Later in the day the Auditor-General strongly criticised the PGF:

Stuff: Auditor-General takes Provincial Growth Fund’s ‘fund within a fund’ to task

The Government’s Provincial Growth Fund has been savaged by the Auditor-General for a lack of transparency, lacklustre conflict management and operating a “fund within a fund”.

The Auditor-General, Parliament’s financial watchdog, was specifically critical of a $30 million spend, authorised by Cabinet for “manifesto commitments to the regions”.

That funding was approved soon after the fund was established, and soon grew to $85m. The Auditor-General queried why certain projects were funded from this specific pot of money.

“It was not always clear from the documentation why certain projects were considered for funding from this part of the Fund,” they said.

The report went on to say “it was difficult to find evidence of how projects had fully met the normal criteria for the Fund,” and that, in effect, the “manifesto commitments” pot was “operating as a ‘fund within a fund’”.

The Auditor-General was also highly critical of the transparency of the PGF and the early focus of the fund’s Provincial Development Unit (PDU) on political “deliverables” ahead of the clear purpose of the overall fund, which it said were very broad and so difficult to assess.

“The PDU’s reporting requirements in the first funding agreements were only about ‘deliverables’ (for example, numbers of training courses to be delivered) and not on achieving the Fund’s objectives (for example, the number of trainees getting a job), the report said.

“There is a risk that recipients of this early funding will not report on outcomes without a contractual obligation to do so”.

At the heart of the difficulty is that the PGF was deliberately broadly designed by the Government to fund a wide range of projects. It has mostly involved three Government Ministries – MBIE, The Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Primary Industries.

Because it was set up so quickly, with pressure to get money out of the door, transparency and reporting has not been sufficient, the report said.

This has led political opponents of the fund to label it a “slush fund” design to buy NZ First votes in the regions.

“In the interests of the transparency of the overall process, it is important for the public and Parliament to have better visibility of how all the parts of the Fund operate,” the report said.

Auditor-General: Managing the Provincial Growth Fund

Read the whole report (56 pages)

There is also: 

Questionable Provincial Growth Fund job claims

Minister of Regional Economic Development  Shane Jones has been questioned for some time about how many jobs have been created by the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF). He has now come up with a number, but that is a bit dubious.

RNZ: Shane Jones’ 10,000 job creation claim under scrutiny

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones is crowing over cracking the target of creating more than 10,000 jobs through the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF).

He said a detailed stocktake has found 13,217 people have been employed so far following PGF investments.

But Jones has dismissed as unimportant details like how long they had been employed for, and how many were full time or part time.

Jones said the PGF outstripping the job numbers it hoped to achieve “speaks volumes about the fund’s success”.

“So just at the level of the human face of the PGF, this figure is not only handsome it’s an affirmation of everything we set out to do,” Jones said.

Until now, the Provincial Development Unit only collected data about the number of workers employed on a given project over the last month.

For example, figures for May show a total of 2727.

But with growing demands from both journalists and the opposition for more details Jones got MBIE officials to ring every fund recipient to find out how many people they had employed.

To head off what he calls “doubting Thomas types” Jones had the stocktake reviewed by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.

However, it highlighted some shortcomings, most notably – that the figure was a count of people working on projects, not the number of jobs created.

Jones said he was not being disingenuous claiming the 10,000 jobs milestone.

“I’m not too hung up on looking at this purely through the font of an FTE (full-time equivalent). It is going to endow and it has endowed regions with new infrastructure which leads to productivity and in that journey the lives of 13,000 people have been positively touched in an economic way,” Jones said.

It seems typical of Jones not to get hung up details that give a true picture of success of the huge fund.

But National’s Michael Woodhouse said Jones was “gilding the lily”.

“They have no idea how many jobs have been created and the reason is they didn’t ask the applicants, so I think it’s disingenuous to say that many jobs have been created and they’re doing random surveys to pluck any sort of job number out of the air to make it look as if they’ve achieved an arbitrary goal,” Woodhouse said.

Woodhouse said while $2.7 billion of the fund had been committed, only $339 million had actually made it out the door.

Actual delivery is an issue\.

Greymouth Mayor Tania Gibson said the fund had been great for her region.

The West Coast has been allocated just under $180m and has so far had 518 jobs.

Gibson said the planned $18m Pounamu Pathway and visitor centre was a spark of hope for businesses in the CBD.

But she said red tape had stopped projects from starting yet.

“Well that’s the thing, we still have to get those projects off the ground to do the job creation … so we’ve got a lot of work to do now to make that happen. It’s not always as easy as it sounds,” she said.

So the jobs have not actually been created yet apart from being on paper proposals.

Wairoa Mayor Craig Little also believed the PGF had been a success.

Wairoa got just $6.1m to help rebuild the town centre and $9m to better digital connections for business as well as roading and skills and employment initiatives.

Little could not say exactly how many jobs had been created but said the fund was about more than that.

“Social, economic, cultural and environmental that we’re able to tick off and it makes Wairoa a much better place to live.

“So even if your jobs haven’t been as many as they thought, but I believe Wairoa has been really successful, it’s just people feeling a little bit better about themselves about getting things done,” Little said.

It’s not surprising to see a mayor being enthusiastic about being given large amounts of money by the Government, regardless of whether the money is achieving what was promised or not.

Jones has claimed “this figure is not only handsome it’s an affirmation of everything we set out to do”.

From the original PGF Cabinet Paper (December 2017) – key design features of the fund are:

Objectives of the Fund: The overall objective of the Fund is to lift the productivity potential in the regions. The following specific objectives are proposed – jobs and sustainable economic development; social inclusion and participation; Māori development; climate change and environmental sustainability; and resilience (infrastructure and economic).

To support our overall goal of productive, sustainable and inclusive growth, and to achieve the lift in productivity potential in the regions, I propose that investments must contribute to most of the following objectives, with a particular focus on the first objective:

a. Increased jobs and sustainable economic development: investments support increased jobs (with a focus on high quality jobs) and sustainable economic development over the long term, particularly in regions and sub-regions where unemployment is high and there are significant social challenges;

– Authorised for lodgement
Hon Shane Jones
Minister for Regional Economic Development

Jones’ claims fall well short of demonstrating that the PGF is substantially increasing high quality jobs and sustainable economic development – and says nothing about how cost effective his handouts have been.

Shane Jones concedes insufficient jobs created by Provincial Growth Fund, ‘repurposing’ funds

The billion dollar a year Provincial Growth Fund was promoted by Minister of Regional Development Shane Jones as a way of creating jobs in regions where unemployment was high, but Jones now concedes that the scheme described by some as pork barrel politics and others a NZ First re-election slush fund has failed to deliver enough jobs.

Jones now concedes the PGF hasn’t created enough jobs, suggests “Provincial Growth Fund money is not going out the door through conventional projects” and is now looking at ‘repurposing’ PGF funds to try to save job losses rather than create new jobs.

When the PGF was launched in February 2018: Provincial Growth Fund open for business

The new $1 billion per annum Provincial Growth Fund has been officially launched in Gisborne today by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.

“As of today, the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) is open for business and has the potential to make a real difference to the people of provincial New Zealand,” Mr Jones says.

“We are being bold and we are being ambitious because this Government is committed to ending the years of neglect.”

“The first of many projects the PGF will support will create more than 700 direct jobs, and 80 indirect jobs – an impressive start to what will be an exciting three years for our provinces.”

5 February 2019 (Stuff) – Shane Jones wants Provincial Growth Fund to get ‘nephs off the couch’

“The flash words that we assemble in our Cabinet papers have actually today put a pair of gumboots on,” Jones said.

“Prince Shane” Jones was here, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Employment Minister Willie Jackson, to revive his promise to get the “nephs off the couch”.

These “nephs” are more commonly known in policy circles as NEETs – young people not in employment, education, or training – and they have been a bugbear of governments for decades.

“We are not going to rely exclusively on our Filipino Catholic immigrants. We are going to do the bloody work ourselves,” he told the crowd to applause.

But by now questions were being asked about the number of jobs being created. Jones himself is a fan of using flash words, but his job creation claims were starting to look like little more than piss and wind.

Newsroom 18 April 2019: How an OIA laid bare the pork barrel shambles that is Shane Jones’ provincial growth fund

On 5 February, MBIE’s head of the Provincial Development Unit, Robert Pigou, was reported claiming that the Provincial Growth Fund “was on track to create 10,000 jobs” – in contrast to National’s claims that the fund had created only a handful of jobs to that point.

I assumed that MBIE had run an economic forecasting exercise to estimate the effects of their various initiatives, and I wanted to know whether their assumptions had stacked up. So I made a simple request:

“Please provide the workings underlying the job creation claims, along with any correspondence with Treasury relating to that modelling.”

On 26 February, Treasury advised me they had no information to provide as they had not provided any advice to MBIE.

…on 22 March, MBIE informed me that “the Ministry is due to publicly release a spreadsheet detailing the 10,000 jobs figure at www.growingregions.govt.nz, as such this part of the request has been withheld”.

On 8 April, the Ombudsman’s office pointed me to a release on MBIE’s website providing the figures.

Here is what MBIE did to produce the 10,000 jobs figure.

They took the number of jobs that every Provincial Growth Fund applicant promised in their grant application. They added those numbers. Then they added one job for every feasibility study the Provincial Growth Fund was undertaking – that’s because you have to hire somebody to do a feasibility study.

That’s it.

Newshub 13 June 2019 – Shane Jones dodges questions over jobs created under Provincial Growth Fund

A spokesperson from Jones’s office said on Thursday 900 jobs had been created to date, including 52.5 under the ‘One Billion Trees’ programme. But the spokesperson didn’t have the number of new full-time, long-term job statistics on hand.

Jones, the Regional Economic Minister, has insisted that more jobs will be created as the PGF continues throughout the year and as projects under the fund are rolled out.

Goldsmith said at select committee Jones’s office had revealed in February a total of 215 jobs had been created out of 36.5 percent of PGF projects, and only six of those jobs were counted as full-time, long-term jobs – the rest were short-term, fixed-term or contractor roles.

The document obtained by Newshub showed 137 of the 215 jobs were part-time of less than 30 hours a week, while 23 were listed as full-time. It said it wasn’t recorded whether the remaining 55 were full-time or part-time.

Newshub 7 December 2019 – Revealed: Provincial Growth Fund costing $484k per full-time job

It’s been more than two years of the coalition Government and the $3 billion PGF has created just 616 full-time jobs.

The Opposition says it’s spraying cash, costing hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for each job created.

But the minister in charge – Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones – insists it’s about more than just jobs.

An answer to a written question from National Regional Development spokesperson Chris Bishop reveals 1922 people are employed by PGF projects – and of that, just 616 are full-time jobs.

So far, $297.4 million has been spent so far on PGF projects. That’s $484,000 per full-time job, excluding those part-time jobs.

Jones insists infrastructure projects like roads and rail will take years to build, however in the long-term they’ll create jobs and further investment and increase confidence in the regions.

Six-hundred is an important figure but over the life of the fund and when the long-term projects are stood up it’ll be many thousands more than that,” he says.

This week (Stuff 7 April 2020) – Shane Jones concedes Provincial Growth Fund hasn’t created enough jobs, promises a fix

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has conceded the Provincial Growth Fund should have created more jobs after an attack by a union boss.

“We’ve disappointed a lot of rural communities that thought the dough would flow much quicker into their communities,” Jones said.

“There are no nephs there are no shovels,” he said of the Waipapa roundabout in Northland. 

“A large focus must go less on capital and on about generating actual jobs,” Jones said. 

But it could be too late for that, in this Parliamentary term at least. The Covid-19 impact on the economy and businesses is likely to see a bit surge in unemployment.

There Government is already looking at ‘repurposing’ PGF funds: Work to repurpose PGF funds begins

The Provincial Development Unit is working through applications and projects to see where Provincial Growth Fund money can be repurposed for initiatives deemed more critical to fighting the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says.

“We need to be throwing everything we have at our disposal at keeping Kiwi businesses going, workers in jobs and regional economies afloat and viable. If Provincial Growth Fund money is not going out the door through conventional projects then it needs to be repurposed for other initiatives,” Shane Jones said.

That sounds like Jones is conceding that ‘conventional projects’ have largely been a failure and the PGF funds should be used now to reduce job losses rather than create new jobs.

 

 

 

More on the Shane Jones/NZ First conflict of interest

RNZ have revealed more information about the forestry company NZ Future Forest Products (closely linked to NZ First) that applied for $15 million of Provincial Growth Fun funds within two weeks of the company being formed.

The office of the Minister in charge of the PGF, Shane Jones, was sent documents about the bid five times over four months – why to his office rather than to the PGF office?

And Jones eventually declared a conflict of interest on 14 October, the same day RNZ asked questions via the Official Information Act. Jones claims the timing was a coincidence.

Jones claims not to have known that two people with close links to NZ First, long time friend of Winston Peters, personal and party lawyer and trustee of the NZ First Foundation Brian Henry, and Peters’ long time partner Jan Trotman, were directors of the company.

And he says that because a loan was not granted by the PGF (after Jones recused himself from decision making) none of this matters anyway. That is nonsense.

If it is to be believed that Jones didn’t know of the potential conflict of interest until the day he was OIA’d about it, which I think is quite a stretch, I think it is incredible that Henry and Trotman wouldn’t have declared their involvement to Jones and to Peters. They certainly should have.

RNZ (Audio): New details revealed on NZ First-linked company and Shane Jones’ office

New information released to RNZ reveals that Shane Jones’ office was sent documents about a forestry company’s bid for $15 million from the Provincial Growth Fund multiple times and many months before he declared a conflict of interest because of links between the company and the New Zealand First Party.

As Guyon Espiner explains, it has now emerged that Mr Jones only declared a conflict of interest over the NZ Future Forest Products bid on the day RNZ lodged an Official Information Act request asking for details of his involvement.

RNZ: New details revealed over NZ First-linked company and Shane Jones’ office

Shane Jones’ office received official documents about a forestry company’s bid for public money five times over four months, but the New Zealand First minister only declared a conflict of interest on the day RNZ began asking questions.

NZ Future Forest Products (NZFFP) – whose directors include Winston Peters’ lawyer Brian Henry and Mr Peters’ partner Jan Trotman – made an unsuccessful bid to borrow $15 million from the Provincial Growth Fund, which Mr Jones is responsible for.

Mr Jones has said he recused himself from the decision-making over the bid because of his long-standing relationship with Mr Henry, who is the judicial officer for NZ First as well as Mr Peters’ lawyer.

Documents provided to RNZ show Mr Jones wrote to the prime minister advising her of his conflict of interests on 14 October – the same day RNZ lodged an Official Information Act request with his office.

Mr Jones has told Parliament that he was only “formally” made aware of the NZFFP bid to the Provincial Growth Fund on 14 October.

But answers to written questions lodged by National MP Chris Bishop show Mr Jones’ office was sent documents mentioning NZFFP and its applications to the PGF on five occasions between 17 June and 9 October.

In total, documents relating to NZFFP were sent to Mr Jones’ office on six occasions between 17 June and 13 November – when the bid was turned down – but Mr Jones said he “personally” received only three of them.

The documents sent to Mr Jones’ office included advice from the Provincial Growth Fund’s Independent Advisory Panel, on 10 July, on the NZFFP bid.

Henry was a founding director of NZFPP was the company was incorporated on 27 March 2019. Trotman became a director on 27 August.

He said none of the documents went into detail about the bid nor disclosed the involvement of Brian Henry and his son David Henry, who is also a director of the company.

So why were all the documents sent, three of them ‘personally’ to Jones, without going into detail or disclosing potential conflicts of interest and without going into detail?

In an interview with RNZ today, Mr Jones reiterated that 14 October was the first date he was formally briefed about the proposal.

That’s the same day RNZ asked questions. He was also asked about it in Parliament on 22 November, and repeatedly refused to disclose when he first knew about the bid or the conflict of interest. From Shane Jones avoids answering questions properly in Parliament:

Hon SHANE JONES: April 8 was the date that the company’s application was lodged. I became aware that the company had applied to the Provincial Growth Fund on 14 October.

The company had been sending documents to Jones’ office (and three times to Jones personally) since 17 June, but Jones claims not to have become “aware that the company had applied to the Provincial Growth Fund” until 14 October. That claim appears to be misleading or false.

Hon SHANE JONES: I became aware of this formal application on 14 October. I have asked staff to ascertain in the wodge of papers that, time to time, wash up in my office, was there any reference at all to Mr Brian Henry in any application, and they have told me zero—that there was no reference whatsoever to that application from that individual.

Chris Bishop: Was he aware informally between 8 April and 14 October that Mr Henry and N.Z. Future Forest Products Ltd had made an application to the Provincial Growth Fund?

Hon SHANE JONES: I repeat again, 14 October is a date of great significance. That is the date that I was formally notified of the application…

…So it is most important that the House focuses on the date of 14 October, when I was formally notified that an application was on its way to the Ministers…

Hon SHANE JONES: Until 14 October, I was not formally notified of the existence of an application. I am advised, however, that officials have put in reports the name of the company they were dealing with. Unfortunately, I had no idea who that company was…

Hon SHANE JONES: As I said, I am not aware of the detail—the extent—of any discussions between Mr Brian Henry or a company I had never heard of and did not recognise until such time as a formal duty fell upon me to make a decision. At that point, I recused myself. Then it was turned down, which is how the process works.

Chris Bishop: Why did David Henry email his office on 21 September about the project, and why didn’t he declare a conflict then?

Hon SHANE JONES: There is no conflict between myself and a Mr David Henry, an individual I might have met once or thrice. I have clearly stated that I have a longstanding relationship with Mr Brian Henry…

Jones must have known that David Henry was or may be related to Brian Henry.  RNZ:

In an interview with RNZ today, Mr Jones reiterated that 14 October was the first date he was formally briefed about the proposal.

“I have already said that my office received papers identifying name of the company but I had no idea that that company involved the personalities that apparently are the directors of that company.”

Again at least misleading, he had received an email from one of the directors on 21 September.

Answers to written questions also show that Mr Peters wrote to the prime minister on 14 October, the same day as Mr Jones did, declaring a conflict of interest in relation to the NZFFP bid.

If Trotman didn’t disclose to Peters that she was a director of a company applying for PGF funds she should have.

There were warnings of the risks of cronyism when the PGF was set up with Jones the Minister in charge of dishing out $3 billion.  This application by NZFFP has not helped perceptions of it being some sort of a slush fund

It seems a bit extraordinary Jones and Peters were completely unaware of the involvement of the Henrys and Trotman until the same day RNZ started asking questions, and Jones repeatedly refusing to answer questions about what he knew don’t help perceptions of some sort of impropriety.

I think it’s safe to assume that Jones knew more about this (‘informally’) than he has disclosed, there is  clear implication that’s the case.

And I think it seems negligent of Henry and Trotman not to disclose to Peters or Jones of their involvement in a PGF application. It certainly hasn’t looked good for NZ First.

And it doesn’t help the credibility of the Labour-NZ First coalition Government. The Greens aren’t involved directly, but their silence on this (as far as I’m aware), compared to what one could imagine their reaction would be to anything like this involving National or Act, suggests their standards can be compromised by being in power.

Hon Grant Robertson: Can the Minister confirm that N.Z. Future Forest Product Ltd’s application to the Provincial Growth Fund was declined?

That it was declined is immaterial to what happened during the application. Robertson has put himself in a position of appearing to approve of what happened.

Jacinda Ardern has appeared impotent on the behaviour and actions of one of her Ministers, Jones.

This story has been running alongside the revelation that Brian Henry is trustee of a Foundation that appears to be designed to hide donations to NZ First that would normally need to be declared.

Shane Jones denies conflict of interest accusations

Putting Shane Jones in charge of a billion dollars a year of handouts through the Provincial Growth Fund was always going to be both a financial and a political risk.

And it was always going to be scrutinised by political opponents, especially with the amount of money being poured into Jones’ home province, Northland.

RNZ: Shane Jones denies conflict of interest in funding decision

Cabinet Minister Shane Jones is denying his role in a decision to fund a group from the regional growth fund is a conflict of interest.

Before he became minister Mr Jones was involved in plans to build Manea Footprints of Kupe, a culture heritage and education centre in Northland.

He declared a conflict of interest in the project when he became a Minister in November 2017.

But in February 2018 he attended a meeting of Ministers where he spoke about the project, providing reassurances about its management.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson then approved a $4.6 million grant, despite Treasury recommending it not go ahead.

Mr Jones said he gave only factual information at the meeting and was not otherwise involved in the decision.

National MP Paul Goldsmith…

…said the Prime Minister must demand answers from Mr Jones.

“If you’ve declared a conflict of interest you shouldn’t be in the room,” Mr Goldsmith said.

“He was in the room, responding to questions, we don’t know to what extent, and so he’s left himself wide open to perceived conflicts of interest and not doing things as they should be done.”

Act leader David Seymour…

…said the Prime Minister must sack Mr Jones over his involvement in the project.

Mr Seymour said it was “completely inappropriate” for Mr Jones to be involved in the meeting which decided to grant the project $4.6m.

In an answer to a Parliamentary question, Mr Jones said he had attended no formal meetings about the project since becoming a Minister.

He said Mr Jones’ misleading answer showed he is not fit for ministerial office and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has no choice but to sack him.

Stuff: Prime Minister rejects calls to sack Shane Jones, saying conflict was managed

Jacinda Ardern says she will not sack Shane Jones, after it was revealed the NZ First Minister took part in a key funding meeting for a project he had earlier declared a conflict of interest in.

Documents show Jones, the Regional Development Minister, sat in on a funding meeting where a group of Cabinet colleagues approved up to $4.6 million in funding from the Provincial Growth Fund, providing reassurances about the governance of the plan.

“Based on both the information and advice I’ve received, the conflict of interest was managed in accordance with the Cabinet Manual so therefore I would have no cause to sack Minister Jones”, the Prime Minister said in a statement.

Jones defended staying in the meeting in taking part, saying he had disclosed his interest, which satisfied is responsibilities, although he acknowledged there was a “school of thought” that would consider he should have left the meeting.

“I don’t believe my presence in any meeting with three other powerful ministers has any deterrent effect.”

He has dismissed documents from Manea’s proponents suggesting he was proposed to be the chairman of an entity to facilitate the project.

“I don’t care what the documents said, that was just wishful thinking on the part of the people of Hokianga.”

Act MP David Seymour called for Jones to be sacked as a minister and has written to the auditor-general asking for an investigation.

“Clare Curran was sacked for failing to disclose a meeting. Shane Jones has done exactly the same, the only difference being that Curran’s meeting had no consequence whereas Jones was decisive in $4.6 million of taxpayer money going to an organisation he’d previously been involved with,” Seymour said.

Jones will probably keep his job, for now at least, but these stories will keep nagging away at Government credibility and prudence in handing money out to Northland projects that he has had some connection to.

 

Provincial growth Fund another ‘Think Big’ dud?

A New Zealand think tank is claiming the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) needs a course correction to ensure it isn’t wasting money.

The Maxim Institute released a report on Tuesday which suggests the Government’s “big” thinking with the $3 billion PGF comes with too much risk, and it needs to start making “smart” investments to generate the best outcomes for the regions.

“The temptation when you are under that kind of pressure is to pick the low hanging fruit, to grab the thing that is investment ready, even if it isn’t necessarily the best investment in the big scheme of things” said chief executive Alex Penk.

The report says that the PGF has “great potential” but introduces the risk of “misallocating resources, creating dependency culture and favouring rent-seekers over innovators”.

The institute’s five key concerns include a lack of evaluation and little co-ordination across the overall regional development strategy. It also said a “sector-based investment strategy that picks certain sectors over others introduces undue risk”.

 

Provincial Growth Fund – jobs created

National MP Paul Goldsmith asked Minister for Regional Development Shane Jones questions about job creation in Parliament yesterday:

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he accept the figures of the latest household labour force survey, which showed that while New Zealand was creating 10,000 jobs per month under the last two years of the National Government, over the past three months it’s created only 667 jobs per month; and if so, does he think the Provincial Growth Fund will compensate for that massive reduction in job creation?

Hon SHANE JONES: On the question of jobs, as the first citizen of the provinces, I look at things through the spyglass of optimism. And the reality is that, as we make our allocation decisions, these projects and these capital investments take time to fully roll out. But I have sought additional advice, and very shortly I will provide a figure both to the House and to public, which is inversely related to the gibberish I had from that member around about Waitangi time.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he accept that if job growth had continued at the same pace that it had under National, there would have been an extra 28,000 jobs created in the past three months in this country; and is the Provincial Growth Fund in any way compensating for that lost opportunity for Kiwis?

Hon SHANE JONES: Obviously, the Provincial Growth Fund is really premised on the notion of provincial futures, and I have had precious little time to think about those dim, bleak times that he refers to.

Comment from Gezza:


Provincial Champion, Shane Jones corrects the record on PGF job numbers
(Actually, it’s more of a case of he says he finally now has a record of job numbers)

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has told 1 NEWS that 560 jobs have been generated so far by the Provincial Growth Fund. It comes several weeks after National’s Economic and Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith claimed the fund had only created 54 jobs.

Mr Jones admits he wasn’t tracking the number properly, but says officials have now done a ring-around and are promising regular updates. “[It’s] 10 times larger than the miserable figure that my National opposition character [in] Epsom sulks, Mr Goldsmith was tossing around,” he said.

The Minister says the 560 figure is made up of both part-time and full-time jobs, and does not include contractors, trainees or bureaucrats.

More…

1 News at 6 video clip embedded
https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/exclusive-govts-3b-provincial-growth-fund-generates-560-jobs-good-start-towards-10k-promise?variant=tb_v_1


So 560 is all jobs working any number of hours, not the Full Time Equivalent that is often given for job numbers.

It’s early days yet for the Provincial Growth Fund. ‘Only’ $650 million of the three year budget of $3 billion has been handed out so far.

Time will tell how many jobs are created through investment from the fund – total and FTE – and more time will tell how many of those jobs are not short term. It’s possible that once the fiunding runs out that some jobs won’t be financially sustainable.

 

Splashing cash at Waitangi

So far one of the biggest stories of the lead up to Waitangi Day is the splashing of Government cash.

It looks more like a political pork barrel campaign than a dignified marking of New Zealand’s most important historical event.

And it’s not just the PR use and abuse of being in the national spotlight that is raising questions.

Newshub can reveal the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), designed to create jobs and boost the regions, has only created 54 jobs and spent just $26.6 million of its $3 billion.

Even with just 3.4 percent of the funding paid out, each job is costing the Government about $484,000.

Minister in charge of ther Money Machine, Shane Jones:

“I accept that the projects are going to take a while to fully establish…The Regional Economic Development Minister find himself tangled up in the Government’s own red tape. Despite my heroic rhetoric, it is quite a red tape process”.

 

Nation: Shane Jones on Provincial Growth Fund spending

NZ Herald:  Shane Jones announces suite of regional funding worth more than $80m

More than $80 million from the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund will boost rural broadband, expand a driver-training centre near Fielding, and look into building a new freight hub near Palmerston North.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones was in the Manawatū-Whanganui today to announce a number of new initiatives, most of which are for Manawatū-Whanganui region.

About half of the funding – $40m – will be used for a new regional freight hub near Palmerston North, a key staging point for domestic, imported and exported freight in the Lower North Island.

Jones also announced funding across the food and beverage, digital connectivity and tourism sectors in the Manawatū-Whanganui region, including:

• $2.8m to expand the National Driver Training Centre based at Manfeild, near Feilding, to train 700 drivers and machine operators annually
• A $400,000 investment to fund the first stage of an Advanced Aviation Hub at Whanganui Airport
• $100,000 to investigate FoodHQs development to assist food exporters
• $100,000 to assess alternative land utilisation choices in the Tararua District
• $98,000 towards Kaitahi Food & Innovation Factory
• $95,000 towards establishing an education, training and employment programme at the former site of Turakina Māori Girls’ College
• $60,000 towards the Tararua Tourism & Trails Strategy
• $50,000 to investigate education to employment pathways within Horowhenua

The projects are subject to funding contracts that will include a range of agreed commercial arrangements, targets, milestones and deliverables.

Shane Jones admits failure to disclose meetings

The handing out of large amounts of money through the Provincial Growth Fund was always going to be scrutinised by the Opposition, especially with Shane Jones involved. And as Minister in charge Jones has had to admit ‘a slip-up’ in not disclosing 61 meetings, including some with people who have an interest in the Fund.

RNZ: Shane Jones fails to disclose 61 meetings

Shane Jones has had to correct 20 answers to questions from the National Party after he failed to disclose meetings he had earlier this year.

Some of those were with people who have an interest in the Provincial Growth Fund.

Mr Jones, the regional economic development minister, said he took full responsibility for the muck-up which he put down to a transcription error from his outlook diary.

One transcription error missed 61 meetings?

National MP Paul Goldsmith uses weekly written parliamentary questions to ask Mr Jones who he meets with and what for.

He said this slip-up by the minister seriously concerned him, because it was not one or two meetings he missed, but 61.

And, he said, a number of those meetings were to do with the $3 billion of public money Mr Jones had responsibility for.

“What’s made me nervous, is that we regularly ask who he meets with and you can understand that a minister would make the occasional mistake. But what we saw here was 61 meetings which he hadn’t initially declared, which he is now declaring.”

The forgotten meetings include a number with regional and sector representative groups, like Kiwifruit New Zealand and Whakatōhea Mussels.

There are dinners and site visits with local mayors, tourism groups and business representatives, as well as regular catch-ups with Mr Jones’ own ministerial colleagues.

There was also a meeting with the former New Zealand First MP Pita Paraone, who now has interests in an Iwi forestry project which has received a financial injection from Provincial Growth Fund.

It can’t have just been a transcription error, because a number of written questions have not been answered accurately.

Mr Jones said he has received approximately 3000 written questions from National since he became a minister, the majority of which had been answered accurately.

“This figure represents one percent, so in the bigger scheme of things it’s small fry. But the moment that the office uncovered that some of the meetings had been miscast, then we let [them] know.”

It isn’t small fry if the Minister isn’t meeting his responsibility to disclose meetings.

And Jones is likely to remain under scrutiny.

Also today from RNZ – ‘It’s murky’: Questions over use of Provincial Growth Fund

National wants answers as to why the Economic Development Minister is giving out cash to a private trust it says is set to make a killing off it.

A newsletter sent out by the Ngati Hine Forestry Trust, which has secured $6 million of Provincial Growth Fund money for a second round of pine planting on land in Northland, suggests trust benefactors are getting an exceptionally good deal which is “far superior to previous arrangements”.

It said the specifics of the deal were commercially sensitive, but “the financial returns to the beneficial owners to be received from this Forestry Right upon harvest will be substantial [sic].”

The newsletter also reveals the deal will require a third round of planting by the Crown.

“The Forestry Right with the Crown is for one rotation only and it includes the requirement for the Crown to plant a third rotation at its cost which will then be owned 100 percent by the Trust,” the newsletter said.

National’s economic development spokesperson Paul Goldmith said that proved serious financial gain for a private trust – which went directly against the core principles of the Provincial Growth Fund.

“We’ve been asking the minister and the ministry for the business cases, clarity about what is actually being purchased, what the performance indicators are before they get the money – and they’ve refused to give us that information so far.

“It’s murky, it’s been lacking in transparency and the basic principles of good governance.”

Mr Goldsmith also pointed out one of the trustees was former New Zealand First MP Pita Paraone, who he suggested lobbied the minister, Shane Jones, for the money.

But, Mr Paraone said he was appalled that the National Party had sunk so low as to accuse him of soliciting Crown cash.

“I was not part of the discussions as to whether or not Ngati Hine should lobby the minister and I don’t believe that they did,” he said.

“I had no part in the signing of the deal, or determining what the deal should be, other than to attend the actual planting of the first tree.”

Mr Paraone asked how far National was willing to take this argument.

Local governments and groups in the provinces are queueing up for government handouts for projects. This is understandable. Provincial areas have been run down and neglected by successive governments for several decades.

But there are risks of favouritism, money for mates, and poor investments, so scrutiny is important. And the Minister for Regional Economic Development should be aware that the need for transparency – including full disclosure – is important as the credibility of the fund and also the credibility of the Government is at stake.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern agreed the sheer volume of written questions from the opposition could impact accuracy of answers.

Why should it impact on accuracy? Good ministerial records should be kept, and accurate responses should be expected.

There is an issue with the volume of questions being asked, and  that may well impact in response times, but accuracy should be a standard expectation. So that’s an odd position for the Prime Minister to take.

1 News: Shane Jones says it’s a ‘happy coincidence’ his home region is getting the lion’s share of fund he’s in charge of

Northland is getting the most funding from the provincial growth fund that has $1 billion to spend.

A happy coincidence for those getting the money. Northland was badly in need of regional development, but funds handed out should be prudent decisions.

Perhaps it’s also a happy coincidence for the Shane Jones and NZ First re-election chances.

The Fund seems to have been a means for NZ First to fund some of their policies without needing ton get specific budget allocations – like this: Shane Jones earmarks $2.2 million of Provincial Growth Fund for 250,000 native trees

Ardern should be wary of Jones and the Fund, and she should be demanding that everything is transparent and above board – if she is able to demand anything of NZ First. Otherwise (and perhaps inevitably) Jones is an embarrassment waiting to happen for her Government.

Goldsmith isn’t an attention seeking MP, but he is tenacious, and is a good person to be maintaining the scrutiny of the Jones Fund.