NZ Māori Council further distances itself from Matthew Tukaki

Source: 1News

The New Zealand Māori Council has further distanced itself from former representative Matthew Tukaki, clarifying he held senior roles but never a position as its head.

It comes after some members say they were concerned with the way he publicly represented his role in the council.

On Sunday night, a 1News investigation revealed checks were not required or done on Tukaki's CV before he was appointed to a key government role.

Oranga Tamariki Minister Kelvin Davis appointed Tukaki in 2021 to lead a ministerial advisory board, and said one of the reasons his CV wasn’t requested was because of his role as "Head of the Māori Council". The massive task was to fix a ministry that Māori had lost confidence in.

"In terms of the quality of the work that was produced I have absolutely no concerns whatsoever. It was an amazing bit of work that the whole ministerial advisory board did. They produced an incredible report, Te Kahu Aroha which has influenced the future direction plan of Oranga Tamariki," he said.

"I have confidence in the direction Oranga Tamariki is moving in because of the work they did."

But 1News can reveal that Tukaki has had to pay back $60,000 after he over-charged Oranga Tamariki.

That's despite a Cabinet paper clearly saying he would be paid $1000 per day.

Louis Houlbrooke from the Taxpayers' Union told 1News: "In this case, it's explicitly laid out that it's $1000 per day …now you'd think it'd be pretty easy to figure out if he'd done an extra 60 days of work, but apparently no. They misinterpreted these very simple rules, overpaid him by $60,000."

Asked if he was invoicing for "ghost hours", Tukaki said he wasn't.

"No, I was not invoicing for ghost hours at all. My record will show I was working around the clock, and I wouldn't labour anybody to challenge me on that."

Tukaki says there was incorrect advice and no induction from Oranga Tamariki.

"We've been given some advice about how to submit invoices about pro-rata’d hourly rates of payments and it wasn't just me, it was overpayments to all of our board members.

"Mine was the largest overpayment of them all, for no other reason, then for the first couple of months, and I was doing a significant amount of heavy lifting,” he said.

Oranga Tamariki chief executive Chappie Te Kani apologised for the organisation not spotting the overpayments.

“So he has to take ownership for the misbilling. We have to take ownership for having poor controls in place that should've caught it,” Te Kani said.

Oranga Tamariki made mistakes with the GST calculations of other board members which they had to pay back as well.

But 1News understands the amounts were in the region of $1000 to $2000.

Te Kani said the amounts do not approach anywhere near $60,000, but that they were “unfortunate amounts”.

"The difficulty we had with the board was …which again we had to apologise to them, it came back to our financial controls. We treated their GST wrong for their payments which meant they had to pay more money."

Oranga Tamariki says it’s since done an audit of its own processes and that Tukaki paid the $60,000 back by the time he left in April.

Both Tukaki and Te Kani both say Tukaki did not resign from his Oranga Tamariki role because of this overpayment issue.