Apology required as civil servants cover for Minister

The chair and chief executive of NZTE must apologise for denying that funding for the Saudi Arabian Food Security Partnership was suspended, despite a board paper confirming it, Labour MP David Parker says.

“The document obtained by Labour under the Official Information Act states funding for ‘the Al Khalaf agri-hub’ was suspended days after the Auditor General commenced her inquiry.

“When asked directly if funding was suspended NZTE chief executive Peter Chrisp told the Commerce Committee on Thursday, ‘no, there’s absolutely no reason to’.

“Not only is there a board document written by the chief executive saying funding was suspended in August last year, NZTE finally admitted it yesterday.

“It is a very serious matter to mislead a select committee. Their purpose to scrutinise government spending is to ensure taxpayers money is being spent wisely.

“This controversial deal has included a $4m cash payment, $1m on flying sheep to Saudi Arabia, most of the lambs dying, and concern over whether the abattoir being paid for by taxpayers will be owned by the Saudi government. It was always clear this would be the subject of questions by Labour members at select committee.  

“Peter Chrisp and NZTE chair Andrew Ferrier may be covering for the embarrassment caused by the government and Murray McCully. But that’s no excuse. They must apologise for misleading the committee and through them the New Zealand public.

“They should explain why funding was suspended. Through their denial at select committee, they have avoided explaining why it was suspended.

“It’s extraordinary how little the Government’s own officials either know – or want to know –about the deal. Surely they can have a truthful answer to simple questions like: who will own the abattoir and is funding suspended?

“This deal gets murkier and murkier. It’s time for answers now,” David Parker says.