The authority of the Royal Commission on Abuse of Care to review recent incidents has been suspended.

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The government has stripped the Royal Commission on Abuse of Treatment of its authority to prosecute modern care services and new incidents of abuse.

It also denied the inquiry’s appeal to prolong their investigation by another two and a half years.

The high-level investigation is looking into neglect that happened between 1950 and 1999 in state and faith-based services.

When the enquiry was created in 2018, it was also granted the authority to look into that time limit.

However, Minister of Internal Affairs Jan Tinetti has now suspended this authority in order to insure that the Royal Commission’s work is completed by 2023.

This is because in December last year, the inquiry estimated it would need another three years to complete its work – taking the total investigation period to seven years.

“Their explanation was… the work was a lot more complex and larger than what they anticipated. To be able to hear all of the evidence in-depth, they felt that a three year extension was needed,” Tinetti said.

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If the Royal Commission’s scope wasn’t changed, it would risk being “overly drawn out and legalistic” Tinetti said.

The government is comfortable revising the scope, she said, because of the other investigations into modern day care providers – like Oranga Tamariki.

“Since the inquiry was set up, we’ve actually as a government initiated a number of other inquiries including a current day look into Oranga Tamariki settings, we’ve had Waitangi Tribunals look at current care settings.

“What we were very conscious of is that we have got an overlap in this area… we felt that this was a way that we could support the Commission but ensure the work was happening in other areas as well.”

Cabinet has agreed to give the Royal Commission a five month extension, meaning it will hand in its final report by June 2023.

That extension will be the last, Tinetti said.

Tinetti has also moved forward the due date for the Royal Commission’s report on redress and how the redress process can be improved.

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That was because the government was keen to progress redress for survivors and wanted take the inquiry’s report into Budget 2022 negotiations, Tinetti said.

“We don’t know what that’s going to look like yet but we want to start acting on it as soon as we possibly can.”

Cost blow-out

The changes also come in the wake of sky-rocketing spending at the Royal Commission.

RNZ has revealed the inquiry’s operational spending has increased by more than 80 percent in this financial year.

It had to request three emergency funding boosts after blowing through its $56 million cap, which was supposed to last another two years.

Grant Robertson, Minister of Finance, refused both of them and eventually reserved an undisclosed sum from a $8 million contingency fund.

These demands came around the time the Royal Commission informed the government that it would need a two-and-a-half-year extension.

Robertson has enlisted the help of Treasury to examine the Royal Commission’s expenses and improve its financial management.

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