ORFU pokie papers withheld

Confidential documents relating to the Otago Rugby Football Union's involvement with pokies are being withheld by the Department of Internal Affairs.

The department declined an Official Information Act request to release the New Zealand Rugby Union-supplied documents on the grounds it "would be likely to prejudice the supply of similar information".

The Otago Daily Times has lodged a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsmen seeking the release of the information, citing public interest.

Asked if the union was under investigation, an Internal Affairs spokesman said the department's focus was on the union's biggest pokie funder, The Trusts Charitable Foundation, and not the union.

"We are in the process of finalising our audit of TTCF."

The department had not undertaken any new interviews with current or former union staff or board members, he said.

The NZRU declined to release the report, but issued a statement.

"In the course of finalising the recovery package for the Otago Rugby Football Union, the NZRU became aware of potential issues relating to funds obtained by the union from gaming trusts," public affairs general manager Nick Brown said.

"The NZRU carried out its own investigation and were satisfied that the funds it planned to invest in the ORFU as part of the recovery package were not at any material risk from any potential action by authorities."

Copies of documents obtained by the NZRU in the course of that investigation were handed over to the Department of Internal Affairs at a meeting last month.

The union received more than $6 million in pokie grants - earmarked for amateur rugby - from the trust between 2005 and 2011.

Earlier this year, the ODT reported the union had bought three Auckland-based bars and entered a relationship with TTCF after Internal Affairs declined its request to set up a pokie trust.

Former TTCF contractor and pokies whistle-blower Martin Legge was not surprised Internal Affairs was not releasing the information.

"It's pretty consistent with a whitewash of any public accountability in this case.

"In any event, I would have concerns about the validity of the audit in respect of detecting breaches of the Gambling Act (2003)," he said.

"That's [Internal Affairs'] job but they have continued to sidestep their obligations."

hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

 

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