David Seymour savages Ministry for Pacific Peoples after $40k farewell revealed

Imagine throwing a farewell party for your boss with $40,000 of taxpayer money.

That's what the Ministry for Pacific Peoples did last year and the public service watchdog has decided to name and shame them. 

The Ministry for Pacific Peoples - or should we say the Ministry for Pacific Parties - has only been around for five years but it's already splashing the cash on a farewell bash.

"Forty grand on a farewell, you've got to be kidding," said ACT's David Seymour. 

The party was for the ministry's boss Leauanae Laulu Mac Leauanae in October last year.

His ministry spent more than $7500 on gifts for Leauanae including carvings and fine mats.

The photographer, flowers and drummers cost more than $3000, while flights and accommodation - including for six of Leauanae's family members - cost more than $7000.

Significant over-catering, venue hire and other costs of more than $21,000 brought the total party cost to $39,262.22

"It's like three years' tax for the average worker," said Seymour. "It's totally outrageous waste. It shows a culture where they don't care about taxpayers who are doing it hard and the wider economy."

The Public Service Commission said Leauanae did pay money back.

"On being made aware of the money spent on gifts he immediately repaid the $7500 and returned all the gifts."

It didn't stop there, Leauanae wasn't even leaving the public service, he was just moving to a new ministry - the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, where they held another party. 

His new ministry put about $7500 towards it which the Public Service Commission said was acceptable. But his old Ministry for Pacific Peoples spent nearly $5000 on it which was deemed inappropriate. 

Public Service Commissioner Peter Hughes blasted the Ministry for Pacific Peoples' expenditure on both the farewell and the welcome as inappropriate use of taxpayers' money. 

He said it did not meet the requirement of "being moderate and conservative". 

There was also no evidence of a budget and limited expenditure oversight. 

"This department produces nothing, wastes money like there's no tomorrow and should be gone and under ACT it will be gone," said Seymour.  

But that might be hard in a Government with National leader Christopher Luxon, who just on Tuesday was praising the ministry.

"I'm a big fan of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, I think it's made a big difference."

It certainly threw a big party - and now making some big headlines.

Pacific Peoples Minister Barbara Edmonds, who took on the portfolio earlier this year, said it was "disappointing this has happened".

"Like all Ministers, I expect agencies to spend taxpayer dollars prudently. They were not met on this occasion," she said.

"Since becoming the Minister for Pacific Peoples, I have made my expectations around financial controls and practices clear.

"Senior Leadership at the Ministry has since changed and I have confidence in the new Chief Executive to ensure this doesn’t happen again."

In a statement, Secretary for Pacific Peoples Gerardine Clifford-Lidstone said she accepted the expenditure on the farewell didn't comply with internal policies and other guidelines.

"This must be remedied with urgency. I have reviewed MPP's policies and guidance on sensitive expenditure to ensure they are robust and reflect the Public Service Commission's standards and guidance, as well as the Office of the Auditor-General's guidance on sensitive expenditure. 

"Important decisions about sensitive expenditure are now scrutinised and documented, and clear budgets set before any spending decisions are made. 

"This will ensure that something like this does not happen again. MPP's financial controls, practices and conventions now better reflect the prudent use of public money."