New document alleges misuse of Kōhanga funds by directors and trust board members

By Maiki Sherman

Lynda Tawhiwhirangi was suspended in October last year amid allegations of misspending.  However one document hits back, questioning why others did not suffer the same consequences as her.  It alleges misuse of funds and personal gains by directors and trust board members.

The National Kōhanga Reo Trust receives $92 million in public funding  for the education of tamariki in te reo Māori.  However the eight-page document alleges misspending by others within both the national trust and its company, Te Pātaka Ōhanga (TPO).

It claims personal loans were given to trustees, directors and that a previous general manager, ‘had a personal housing loan much larger than any kōhanga has had’ and ‘no disclosure of asset and liabilities asked for.’

While the document names people, the real concern overall is with regard to the actual processes or lack thereof, within the Trust and TPO, alleging the ‘Trust purchased a $60,000 vehicle for XXX, this expenditure was hidden in TPO account’  and ‘This is done to protect XXX from media investigations'.

The document claims a former Trust CEO and former TPO GM, travelled to China with their partners at the trust's expense to look at purchasing stationery and goods.

‘Nothing eventuated but could be seen as extravagant in kōhanga eyes.’

It also alleges that a former TPO GM travelled to Australia to look at buying land.  Nothing eventuated.  However the TPO GM travelled with the very person who was later brought in to investigate TPO misspending.

Personal travel on unrelated business was paid on credit cards and fuel cards, it claims.

‘If personal vehicles are fuelled by either the fuel card or the credit card, there is no policy to say that it can or can’t be done.’

Without a policy, ‘there are no boundaries in place'.

Other allegations include a litany of expenses, gifts and koha including:

  • Golf cart gifted to a director
  • A $20,000 loan to a former CEO for purchase and production of videos
  • A $3000 koha
  • A $200 traffic fine
  • Spectacles
  • Paint
  • Timber
  • Repairs and service on another golf cart

An investigation by the Charities Commission found loans for personal travel and purchase of personal vehicles were outside of the scope of their stated charitable purposes.  The Charities Commission concluded ‘gross mismanagement’ and ‘serious wrong-doing’ under the Act.  

The Serious Fraud Office found ‘no criminal offending’ after considering the scope of restrictions regarding the use of TPO funds – restrictions we now know were non-existent.  The SFO also concluded ‘failures in corporate governance'.

This latest document questions why Lynda Tawhiwhirangi was stood down when others were not?

The accuracy of the allegations is still being looked at, but Te Kāea approached Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust.

Their spokesperson Derek Fox had no knowledge of the allegations in the document, but he did say that all documents had been seen by those organisations who investigated the Kōhanga Trust and TPO for which they have been cleared.

Today we heard that Toni Waho had been sacked by the Board for alerting ministers to the allegations within the document. The dispute reached the High Court.

Toni Waho was unsuccessful, and despite lodging an appeal in court last week, he has been removed.