It takes a special kind of bellicosity to both dissemble and attack Geoff Robinson on Morning Report in response to innocuous questions such as ‘Are there any life members on the Kōhanga Reo Trust?’, but Derek manages that kind of uncomfortable and unhelpful combination with unfortunate aplomb. My personal distaste for Derek’s style aside though, his question (and one also discussed on Paul Henry’s show last night, albeity briefly) of ‘when does a public dollar stop being a public dollar’ merits attention. But I’m not sure why it does. Probably because of its superficial (and deceptive) simplicity. Derek challenged Geoff by saying (and I paraphrase): ‘When you go to the grocery store and pay for your groceries are you then spending public dollars?’ Geoff responded, “well of course not, that’s my money, I can do with it what I like’. ”Well, same diff!’ crowed Fox. (well, in more words than that, but you get my drift). Sorry Derek, that is just plain wrong, and worse, it is disingenuous. Let’s look at what Te Pātaka Ōhanga does. From some comments like Derek’s, you’d think they were purely contract service providers themselves, and so, you might be forgiven for thinking they are paid a contract price for their services, and just like an insurance company would receive payment for insurance taken out by some publicly funded agency, and then what they do with that money is their business and not open to public scrutiny. The lines are nowhere near as clearly drawn here. Look at the opening sentence on the TPO website: Te Pataka Ohanga Limited (TPO) is a wholly owned subsidiary company of Te Kohanga Reo National Trust and was formed to help manage the growth of Te Kohanga Reo and maximize the bargaining power through strategic partnerships with providers, allowing quality services and products at discounted rates. While the entity might be owned by Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust, clearly TPO does things for and behalf of Te Kohanga Reo. That impression is strengthened in the next sentence: Te Pataka Ohanga Ltd also manages a range of services, on behalf of Kohanga like insurance, mokopuna oranga pumau, scholarships, computers (Dell), Internet service providers (ICONZ), Fuel Cards and many more listed on this web site. According to Māori TV’s Maiki Sherman:
‘However, according to Te Pātaka Ohanga’s constitution, it was established solely to manage the economic activities of the National Trust. Also, all profits not reinvested in the company are transferred to Te Kōhanga Reo or an approved charity.
Is Fox trying to argue that these functions are entirely private ones, not in any way connected with the public nature of the funding received by TPO in the first place? TPO is not analagous to the insurance company, nor is it analogous to the salaried public radio broadcaster buying his milk and bread with that salary. Geoff, in buying his milk and bread is carrying out a private function, and his salary was tagged for that purpose, and reported as such in the relevant financial reporting documents. Geoff is at the end of that process, and when the money is in his possession, there is no accountability back to his employer. TPO, by contrast, is intimately involved, and indeed responsible for the economic activities of the parent trust. TPO is not at end of the funding chain, and what they do with the money reflects on Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust, and don’t forget, the leftovers of that money goes back to TKRNT (or another nominated charity). I’ll bet Geoff doesn’t give his leftovers back to Radio New Zealand.
Fox’s defensiveness doesn’t help Te Kōhanga Reo, although I understand entirely his desire to protect and defend what the Trust does. He should understand that he is helping to achieve the opposite. Kāore taea e te tipu e rea, mēnā kua ngaro a Tamanuiterā.