Sloppy and secretive but not corrupt

The report in the dodgy sheep deal in Saudi Arabia has finally been delivered.

The government is using this paragraph to claim exoneration:

“I found no evidence that the arrangements entered into as part of the Saudi Arabia Food Security Partnership were corrupt. … The payments did not amount to bribery or facilitation payments. Instead, they were made as part of a legally valid contract for services. Public money was spent within the necessary financial approvals.”

So, Murray McCully isn’t corrupt but he is inept…and probably misled cabinet, and blew nearly $12million for nothing.

NBR Reports:

Sloppy and secretive but not corrupt.

That is the best way of summarising Auditor-General Lyn Provost’s report on Foreign Minister Murray McCully’s handling of the Saudi sheep deal.

“I found no evidence that the arrangements entered into as part of the Saudi Arabia Food Security Partnership were corrupt,” the report concludes.

But, she says, “I share many New Zealanders’ concerns about the arrangements.”

As for Mr McCully himself, he told an impromptu press conference he hopes to learn from the Auditor-General’s recommendations but suggested to news media they are more responsible for his reputation for cutting corners than he is.

The report is in fact highly critical of Mr McCully’s methods of operating: It just concludes those methods are not actually corrupt.

Dodgy is as dodgy does. Contrary to what John Key is claiming it actually is a disgrace. We have gifted assets and cash to a dodgy Saudi “businessman” and received nothing in return. Where is the free trade agreement? Where is the increased trade?

Where is the mention of the key roles of other ratbags involved?

The report backs up previously published criticism by the Treasury of the business case for the deal which went to the cabinet, and the way the decision which stemmed from that paper was implemented.

The poor implementation seems to have stemmed, at least in part, from the poor scoping of the policy contained in the policy: It wasn’t clear what the cabinet had decided, and it appears likely some ministers were not totally clear themselves what they had decided.

And it is still not clear – after $8.7 million has been spent – what the benefit of that spending has been.

We have ministers who are supposed to make decisions in the best interests of the taxpayer. This is gross incompetence from McCully. Knowing him, as I do, he will likely find some poor scapegoat in MFaT to take the blame.

Nor, the report says, is it “clear on what basis the amounts paid to the Saudi Arabian investor’s company under the contract were arrived at.

“A key objective of the Saudi Arabia Food Security Partnership was to remove a perceived obstacle to a free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council. That agreement remains unsigned.”

What is more, there was a “settlement of a grievance” with the Saudi investor, but this settlement was “provided under the guise of a contract for services.

“The Saudi Arabia Food Security Partnership was the result of a need to resolve a diplomatic issue and, in the view of Ministers, to settle a Saudi Arabian investor’s grievance. The situation was complicated by views about live sheep exports. The contract does not outline those different policy objectives or the complexities.

“Importantly, the contract does not specifically reflect the settlement component relating to the grievance.”

That was not, the report says, “corruption” or a “bribe” as has been alleged.

But, the report says, because Mr McCully was so secretive and so unclear about what he was doing, it looked dodgy.

“This lack of transparency, both at the time of the decision and subsequently, has led to the concerns from the New Zealand public about the nature of the payments made.

“To date, explanations from ministers or officials have not resolved those public concerns.

“Without transparency, people will speculate. This report is an opportunity for the complete story to be told.”

 

John Key sacked Phil Heatley for a bottle of wine and Kate Wilkinson for less. Yet he is dying in a  ditch for Murray McCully. So much for his higher standards. He seems to have abandoned those some time ago.

This still looks like a dirty deal done with sheep.

 

– NBR

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