There have been a few good articles recently around my obsession of late.
We hope that investigations happen looking at the issues. I also hope its being looked at soon: when we see what’s happening and what has been going on unexamined and unabated for at least six years, this costs our communities at around $1million per month. There is considerable opportunity cost to our communities of that money.
What I have done is combined the grants from those gaming trust based grant makers who were identified in the third article: Milestone, Rano, Blue Sky, and Dragon. These grant makers share the same characteristic: they make a large number of grants to a few of the same organisations. Just to explain my methodology: I copy the grant disclosures off websites, clean it up and categorise it. The year I report against is the gaming trust’s financial year. So if you are looking at Granted.govt.nz, my information will differ because they work on calendar year, and they don’t seem to clean the data. Together, in the last six years these groups have provided $86.6m to 1325 different organisations. That’s a lot of money.
For funsies below is a pivot table showing the last six years of grant funding by these four organisations to the aggregate top 30 grant recipients by dollar value. No shade to the groups that are on this list: rather they are here because they are the recipients of a high dollar value of grants from the above grant makers. And many have received a large number of grants from these four: the last column shows the number of grants given to these organisations over the past six years. I have got a bit nervous about putting their names in: I can provide if anyone wants them. Yes, Angel's Children Education Foundation is on this list, as are the other charities in the last referenced article.
Check out the column Grant Count. The one that ends in 4,578. This is the number of grant applications that have been approved by these 4 grant makers for these 30 organisations over six years. 45% of all of the grants approved by these organisations has gone to these 30 groups. In dollar terms 59% of all grants have gone to these groups.
Now, for anyone in the grant seeking game, they will quite possibly be surprised by this. Generally, a grant seeker will have a budget they need to find grants to back fill, and they will have a number of grant makers that they apply to, which may include energy trusts, community trusts, local and central government, and other Class 4 gaming organisations, along with a bunch of private trusts. Many grant makers will only allow you to come once, maybe twice, for financial support a year. This is so others can have a fair go at the money, and also to make sure a grant seeker doesn’t become too dependent on one source of money.
In my research, I have seen some organisations receive multiple grants before, but they either tend to be those “for purpose” grants (such as Mainland Foundation or Air Rescue Services), or those more questionable grants, such as many for football clubs (I’m not much of a fan of professional payments as personally struggle to see the line between professional and amateur players – and yep there’s one of these on this list, who, in six years, got $1.45m in 204 grants).
However, here we have some extreme grantmaking. Synergy Community Trust received 425 grants totalling $3.1million off two grant makers in the period under review. That’s on average 71 grants per annum from two grant makers. Anyone who does grants will also know what a headache that would be from an accountability reporting perspective. This does me wonder how the management company is paid: are they paid on a “per grant” basis? This, I think, would be the only possible reason for such an insane number of grants. Any thoughts? I’d love to know!
Supreme Sikh Society of New Zealand in the last financial year reported a total SURPLUS of $1.7 million, which matches their reported grants of $1.7m. These four grant makers provided $602k in 2022, receiving this in one year off 24 successful grants from the four grant makers under analysis. supplemented by a very generous Akarana who I believe gave $1.1m in 35 grants.
I’ve also, in two hours of googling, managed to find two pokie venues where the owner shares a surname with someone pretty high up in an organisation which gets a fair bit of money. Now, this could be a co-incidence. But if I were looking to enforce the law – because lets be clear under the legislations venues cannot have a say in where money goes – I’d have a good hard look at fringe organisations receiving large lumps of cash.
One new issue I’ve just become aware of is kick backs to the venue owner: one instance where the venue was asking for a 20% cash kickback on a grant that “came through their venue”. However, unless that's a line item in a set of accounts identifying "kick back" its hard to prove.
I have reported nearly all of this, so we shall wait to see what if anything happens. In my last blog, I put down some ideas on what I would do to ensure those responsible for overseeing the system do get alerted to potential issues earlier. But what’s playing in my mind is how long this investigation may take, and the cost incurred by communities. Until an investigation is complete I would:
- Stop any venue movements to these organisations until the investigation is complete.
- Parachute in a few assessors to look at the grant applications going through these organisations. This could be some Auckland City Council grant makers, or Lotteries staff or even other pokie operators who play by the rules. They will have a pretty good idea about costs, others who do similar things, and could likely continue to get money out into the community.
- Engage with the Ministry of Ethnic Communities on a programme to educate communities around the law as it relates to grant funding.
I write about this stuff as believe that as need to understand where funding comes from, where it goes, and how it gets there. As a citizenry we allow both those supplying money and those asking for money to operate, and as a community we need to ensure we have oversight over the organisations they choose to fund. Love to talk with you if you think this is at all interesting, and if you want to dive into the data a bit more than happy to do so. Check out my website http://www.delfi.co.nz/
Image of course from Austin Powers. Fabulous movie.