Koha from the Chief Human Rights Commissioner to the Waikato Mongrel Mob

2 September 2021: We have replied to Simeon Brown MP about his concerns about the koha given by the Chief Human Rights Commissioner at a hui organised by the Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom chapter.

Simeon Brown
National Party MP

Tēnā koe Mr Brown


Thank you for your letter dated 19 July 2021.

You have raised concerns about the $200 cash koha given by the Chief Human Rights Commissioner at a hui organised by the Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom chapter on 1 May 2021.

You asked my Office to consider:

  • whether it is appropriate for the Chief Human Rights Commissioner to give a taxpayer-funded koha to the Waikato Mongrel Mob; and
  • whether it was appropriate for the Chief Human Rights Commissioner to provide this koha in cash, and if this is consistent with our good practice guidance on sensitive expenditure.

It is not our Office’s role to consider whether koha should be given to a particular recipient. Instead, our role is to look at whether public organisations have followed good practice in making such decisions.

My Office issued updated guidance on sensitive expenditure in October 2020 (Controlling sensitive expenditure: Guide for public organisations). Regarding koha, Part 9 of this guidance says:

9.13 Koha is a gift, token, or contribution given on appropriate occasions including:

  • tangihanga;
  • attendance at an event/meeting;
  • for use on or for a marae; and
  • kaumātua support for pōwhiri, mihi whakatau meetings, or other events.

9.14 The probity issue associated with koha is that it is discretionary and usually un-receipted expenditure.

9.15 Public organisations should have a policy on, and controls over, giving koha that specifies the means of determining the cost of any koha, and requires all koha made to:

  • reflect the occasion;
  • be approved in advance at an appropriate level of authority; and
  • be clearly documented with the date, amount, description, and purpose.

My guidance does not exclude koha being given in the form of cash, as long as the payment is consistent with the organisation’s policy and probity.

The Human Rights Commission’s (the Commission) Sensitive Expenditure Policy that applied in May 2021 notes that koha often takes the form of cash. The policy provided that a koha could be paid in appropriate circumstances; should not exceed $500; and should be consistent with the Commission’s purpose, operating model, and character.

The payment of this koha appears consistent with our sensitive expenditure guidance and the Commission’s policy. We also note the Commission has, on its website, provided the public with a reasonable explanation for attending the hui and has been open about the payment of koha.

On that basis, I do not intend to carry out any further inquiry work on this matter.

Thank you again for writing to us. Because of the level of public interest in this matter, we will publish this letter on our website.

Nāku noa, nā

Signature - JR

John Ryan
Controller and Auditor-General