Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Helen Clark over-reacts and protects another Commission

The Herald has run a NZPA story noting Helen Clark's announcement that Cabinet is to instruct power companies not to cut peoples power off on Friday - Sundays and that companies have to tell consumers about help that is available if they could not pay bills and ensure no vulnerable people live in homes that face disconnection.

What NZPA didn't report was a few years back the Government told the Electricity Commission to develop similar policies to benefit low income domestic consumers - including the suggestion of regulations. The resultant agreed guidelines - which are not policy - state that power companies "are to advise customers of assistance they can get from welfare organisations".

But they don't, and there are no consequences for not doing so.

Now Helen Clark says Cabinet is now instructing them to do so. She is blaming the power companies while protecting the government-appointed Commission and ignoring its slack monitoring role.

Yet the guidelines are not policy, it is a stated intention that has about as much teeth as Sue Bradford's stated intention not to ban smacking. Many of the staff in WINZ and at the Commission don't even know the guidelines exist, even though both groups were involved in drafting them.

The politically appointed board of the Commission is not undertaking its written obligation to monitor this, even when it is advised of such guidelines not being followed. A senior official at the Commission told me today that the Commission has no idea of the range of reasons companies cut off power because it doesn't ask, even if it supposed to monitor this. He also told me that the Commission refuses to recommend regulations, and if the guidelines are not followed there is nothing they currently do about it. Thats not surprising when you are told that they are not asking for the information that will allow the Commission to monitor adherence to the guidelines.

That, frankly, is unacceptable, and Helen Clark should be holding the Commission to task over this rather than blaming power companies for something they didn't do.

And the MSM should be reporting it.
Update The Herald does a soft story - and letting the Commission off the hook.
Mercury Energy had admitted it did not contact Mrs Muliaga to suggest that she go to Work and Income New Zealand or other social agencies for help. The company told Mr Mallard's office that it didn't advise Mrs Muliaga because it was not required to.
"This clearly points to where the guidelines need to be strengthened," the Prime Minister said.
. They needed to be strengthened from day one.

Although the power cut appears not to have caused Mrs Muliangas death, the whole thing clearly points to where the Government has failed because its own Commission's guidelines are toothless. They are now going to be updated from a suggestion to a requirement, which should have been the case to start with had just one of the 30 odd latte swigging high paid suits in the Commission done its job.
Anyway, does anybody know whether this family was getting any Working For Families payments and accommodation supplements from WINZ?

Gotta go now, my power bill is due today....


Craig Ranapia said...

I also find it rather interesting that it is now part of power companies' 'social responsibility' to be informing customers of potential welfare entitlements to help pay their power bills.

Why doesn't the MSM follow up with this obvious question: "Why the hell aren't the agencies themselves communicating with their clients? After all, the multi-million dollar *cough* public information campaign around KiwiSaver was rolled out less than a month after the budget announcement."

Anonymous said...

yeah and the police won't prosecute smackers in 3 yrs time