MFaT blows $9million on conference, most of it on a cruise liner

TROUGHING: P&O Pacific Jewel in Apia for the SIDS conference

TROUGHING: P&O Pacific Jewel in Apia for the SIDS conference

Government departments are essentially large troughs where they find innovative ways to blow taxpayer cash on themselves.

But none it appears are as wasteful or out of control than Murray McCully’s depart, MFaT.

They have blown $9 million on a 4 day conference in Samoa where they even rented a cruise liner!

The Taxpayers? Union is slamming the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for bankrolling a four-day UN conference in Samoa last September has cost New Zealand taxpayers over $9 million.

According to an Mfat spokesman, New Zealand?s $9 million contribution to the third Small Island Developing States (SIDS) international conference covered operating costs, accommodation, police support, technical advice and assistance to New Zealand?s ?counterpart agencies,? as well as infrastructure support for Apia?s port and the hosting of high-level visitors.

SIDS was the largest conference ever held in the Pacific. About 2000 delegates attended from over 100 countries, including many heads of government and ministers.

?It is difficult to comprehend how $9 million could be spent on a conference lasting just four days,? Taxpayers? Union executive director Jordan Williams says.

?The amount is nearly half New Zealand?s annual aid budget to Samoa and amounts to $4500 per attendee. It appears someone else picked up the attendees? flights, travel and presumably cocktails, which makes the amount all the more remarkable.?

?If the $9 million had been used for genuine economic development or investment, no one would complain. Instead taxpayers forked out for a conference that resulted only in a document that ?reaffirmed?, ?acknowledged?, ?recognised’ and ?recommitted? to various bureaucratic platitudes.? ??

New Zealand?s contribution to SIDS came out of MFAT?s existing budgets.

The ministry had originally claimed that New Zealand?s financial contribution to SIDS would be known at the conclusion of the conference in Apia on the September 4. However, it only released the final amount last Friday, after numerous requests from NBR ONLINE.

Following a formal request from the Samoan government, NZ Police confirmed to NBR in August that it would provide 90 staff to assist with the conference, 50 of whom are Samoan-speaking.

Mr Williams says that it appears that instead of the money going into the local Samoan economy, British-American owned P&O cruises were the main beneficiary of New Zealand $9 million contribution.

?This is the first instance we?re aware of where New Zealand taxpayers have charted a luxury cruise-liner. It appears that MFAT brought in the liner so conference attendees could avoid the mainland.

?The ship is marketed at ‘the world’s largest adventure park at sea? and includes a zip line across the top deck, an outdoor circus performance arena and numerous movie theatres. Conference attendees had nine bars, pubs and nightclubs to choose from and seven restaurants and cafes to dine in,? Mr Williams says.

?No wonder MFAT waited until just before Christmas to answerNBR?s questions. It?s a shameful misuse of public money and officials are no doubt praying that the Christmas rush allows them to avoid public vilification.”

Astonishing waste.

I can imagine the carnage the first sitting day in parliament next year when Murray McCully is going to have to answer heaps of questions.