What role did ministers play in keeping Saudi report secret?

Minister must say whether they had anything to do with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s (NZTE) refusal to release a report into the deaths of 900 lambs sent to Saudi Arabia as a Government bribe to a Saudi businessman, the Green Party said today.

Ministers must say whether they had anything to do with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s (NZTE) refusal to release a report into the deaths of 900 lambs sent to Saudi Arabia as a Government bribe to a Saudi businessman, the Green Party said today.

The Chief Ombudsman has decided to investigate a complaint made by Radio New Zealand over NZTE’s refusal to release the report.

Most off the 900 pregnant ewes that were flown over on Singapore Airlines, funded by the taxpayer, lost their lambs upon birth. The entire Saudi agrihub deal is being investigated by the Auditor General following complaints from several parties, including the Green Party.

“The National Government has blocked and delayed pretty much every single Official Information Act (OIA) request to date on this Saudi sheep deal. Ministers don’t want New Zealanders to know the truth and that is wrong,” said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei.

“Hiding rather than releasing information seems to be the default position of the National Government, which is looking increasingly arrogant every day.

“The number of agencies scrambling to withhold information about the Saudi sheep affair is astonishing – first you had Foreign Affairs, then Treasury and now NZTE. It is hard to believe they all decided to disregard the OIA off their own bat.

“This isn’t the first time the Ombudsman has had to look documents about the Saudi bribe being withheld; she has already had to investigate information being withheld by Murray McCully and MFAT.

“The public paid for the farm in the middle of the desert ­ they deserve to know why they had to, and what became of the deal.

“The National Government, by its own admission, uses the OIA as a political tool.

“We welcome the decision of the Ombudsman to investigate, knowing that she has a very under-resourced office that is getting more use because of the Government’s refusal to be open and transparent,” said Mrs Turei.

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