A Waste Of Taxpayers Money

March 8, 2013
Iain MacLeod

Those that know me understand my views on the State and how the absence of competition and the disciplines demanded by a profit motive means that try as they might, bureaucrats will never do the job as well as the private sector.

Take last week’s blog on Engineers and our question of trying to get a straight answer out of the Immigration Department on just when an Engineer is an Engineer for the purpose of bonus points. We are still waiting on clarification on just when an Engineering qualification from a recognised university will be deemed ‘comparable’ to a New Zealand one. Clearly individual officers still do not know. We have made our own call (and will provide a money back guarantee it is right) but it makes the process of achieving certainty for our clients more time consuming and expensive – but deliver certainty we must.

The Immigration Department does not appear to feel the same sense of urgency. Heck, it has taken close to 18 months to get where we are on this question…..

Two other examples this past week to demonstrate the point of where the State and its functionaries just plain get in the way.

We are doing what is called an “Approval in Principle” for a local employer who needs to recruit over the next year around 15 Scaffolders. He has tried to find them all over New Zealand for many months, found a couple, but needs many more.

Not the most glamorous or even highly skilled profession but what there is, is a clear, demonstrable shortage of these skills across the country. This has been brought on by the Christchurch demolition and rebuild. Scaffolders are in hot demand for obvious reasons. As we have observed over recent months this is putting strain on such skills sets across the whole country as companies try and cover the Christchurch market and the rest of the country with a static or slowly growing work force given it takes time to train up new and inexperienced staff. Approval in Principle allows us to go to the Immigration Department and argue the case for the employer to recruit candidates from offshore. As soon as a company seeks more than 4 non-residents only the Associate Minister of Immigration can approve the application.

We filed the application for the company about ten days ago. We were fairly quickly contacted by an immigration official asking (demanding actually) far more evidence than the rule book would suggest is necessary. Most we could quickly and easily supply.

What irked however, was that as part of the process (absent in the rule book) was a requirement that the employer agreed to meet with a Regional Manager from Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ). This is the state organ where the unemployed are registered and which is tasked with getting the unemployed into jobs.

We pointed out that as per the evidence presented this company already had many months of working with WINZ to try and find appropriately experienced scaffolders. They had referred none. The company had managed to employ two inexperienced unemployed people given they had the right attitude, aptitude and enthusiasm to learn this work. They are currently being trained to national standards.

What purpose would such a meeting (which could only take place ten days after it was demanded by the Government) serve? Would WINZ be able to pull, rabbit like, from their hat, 15 scaffolders with three years experience immediately when over the past six plus months they could not find one?

Or were the bureaucrats simply playing a game? Best understood by themselves. Responding to some new unpublished rule that WINZ needs to send along someone senior to try and assist the employer? To be seen to be doing something to help get the unemployed off their backsides and into work?

Where was this Manager six months ago?

It is quite obvious to us that local employers always employ locals first. Just ask any migrant who comes here to find work. It does not serve the interests of the employer to recruit offshore – it is expensive, time consuming, uncertain and altogether a real hassle except when they have little other choice.

Why did the immigration officer not accept at face value the evidence provided by this employer?

I am sure we will get the Approval In Principle we seek.

The second example this past week relates to the Immigration Department’s own ‘marketing’ service of migrants to employers as they would like to believe they can assist in filling vacancies. I have a special interest in this given we, too, are trying to achieve something similar – so far without much success. Local employers continue to be reluctant to engage the process – most prefer to rely on the local labour market, then the national labour market, then would be migrants who are in New Zealand looking for work and then panic. By then finding migrants overseas can be too late.

So I asked the Marketing Manager of the Immigration Department to tell me just how many migrants in the past six months had been placed in employment through this service. After waiting two months for an answer I finally got the answer last week – they don’t know.

I asked if they don’t have any way of measuring the results of their not inexpensive online services and programmes. I haven’t received an answer but the answer is clearly no.

So it all begs the question – does the State have any meaningful role of trying to place the unemployed or migrants in jobs? Should the State be pouring financial and personnel resources into processes which they appear to fail spectacularly at?

I say no.

If the unemployed were given say, 12 months of unemployment benefit entitlement for every ten years worked I doubt we would need legions of state functionaries to ‘help’ them get jobs. They would sure as eggs find them or get new skills or possibly even get entrepreneurial.

If the Immigration Department could quantify and demonstrate that they are effectively using taxpayer dollars and filling vacancies for employers then I’d say well done. But they clearly aren’t and the oversight is lacking to force them to focus on processing and deciding on Visa applications.

No one seems to care.

And in these days of every tax dollar spent being scrutinised one wonders how these Government Departments continue to get away with it.

Leave a Reply

There are currently no comments. Why don't you kick things off?