8 Aug 2021

Abuse in care: Treasury recommended reducing investigations

5:10 pm on 8 August 2021

Treasury recommended to the government that the inquiry into abuse in care reduce the number of investigations it planned to carry out.

Royal Commission Abuse in Care inquiry.

File photo. Photo: RNZ / Patrice Allen

That information is revealed number of pre-Budget documents released on Friday amid concerns over how the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care was managing its finances..

The Commission was allocated another $90 million in the budget after it spent its $56m operational funding two years earlier than expected.

As a way of reducing spending, Treasury said the 17 separate investigations the inquiry planned to undertake could be rationalised by either reducing the number, or combining some of them.

It acknowledged the government had decided it was not appropriate for the inquiry to reduce the number, but Treasury said there was still likely to be significant cost savings to be made by combining some investigations, given the fixed costs associated with each one.

It said such an approach is likely to allow the proposed reporting timeframe to be brought forward.

Treasury said the time investigations are completed could be reduced further by relaxing the assumption that three of the five Commissioners attend each hearing.

It said it was not practical or appropriate for Treasury to determine the Commission's operating model or make judgements about the relative importance of various proposed spending.

However, in its view, the Commission has considerable scope to make such trade-offs and achieve its outcomes in a more cost-effective way.

Treasury recommended providing a reasonable level of funding that still requires the Commission to make the necessary trade-offs to operate more effectively.

It said, in addition to rationalising investigations, the Commission could look at its choice of staff mix, including the seniority and salary levels needed, the use of consultants, the secretariat's need for such significant use of legal advisors, travel costs and overhead costs.

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