The Auditor-General, John Ryan has announced an inquiry into aspects of the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme.
The Government established the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme in May 2020 as part of a recovery package to address the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism sector.
The purpose of the Programme was to provide funding support for strategically important tourism assets that contribute significantly to their local region and to tourism in New Zealand.
A group of Ministers, called the Tourism Recovery Ministers Group, were responsible for making decisions under the Programme, including setting the eligibility criteria.
“Before the start of a formal application round, the Tourism Recovery Ministers Group approved funding for three tourism businesses. The subsequent formal application round was open for two weeks, and decisions about all applications were made by the end of July 2020,” said Mr Ryan.
More than $290 million has been committed to the tourism sector through the Programme.
“Concerns about the Programme have been raised in the media and with our office. Tourism businesses have questioned the clarity and transparency of the Programme’s criteria and whether they were applied consistently,” he said.
“Because of the concerns we have heard, the amount of public funding involved, and the importance of robust processes to ensure public trust and confidence is not eroded, we have decided to carry out an inquiry.”
The Auditor-General said his office would examine how applications from tourism businesses have been assessed against the Programme’s criteria.
It will look at:
- the information available to potential applicants about the Programme’s eligibility criteria and assessment process;
- how applications from tourism businesses have been assessed, including the three businesses that received funding approval before the formal application round began;
- whether there is any evidence that applications have been assessed inconsistently; and
- any other related matter that we consider it desirable to report on.
“In keeping with the Auditor-General’s role, our inquiry will focus on the actions and processes underpinning the initial eligibility assessments and subsequent assessment of eligible proposals,” said Mr Ryan.
“We may choose to use sampling methodology in our work. We will not be examining the merits of individual applications or particular funding decisions.”
He said his office would publish a report once we the inquiry was complete.