Lyn Provost

Another dodgy deal under the spotlight at Auckland Council

It’s fantastic to see that the Auditor General has filed her teeth and is focussed on how bad local government is.

Of course Auckland Council has to be the worst of them with its continual excessive spending and mounting debt and some – quite frankly – pretty dodgy deals done by its City Transformation team.

Out West the team has been a focal point for a while.

Investigate magazine raised the issue of what deals the Council did with Westgate developer NZRPG, but that fell on deaf ears. Until now…

Auditor-General Lyn Provost has begun an inquiry into Auckland Council’s involvement in a new town centre at Westgate, which is costing ratepayers about $200 million.

The inquiry follows concerns raised with the Office of the Auditor-General about the way the project was established by the former Waitakere City Council and is being managed.

The Westgate town centre at Massey North is a $1 billion public-private partnership between New Zealand Retail Property Group (NZRPG) and council, first mooted in 2002.

It is said to be New Zealand’s biggest new town centre, equivalent to a new Manukau or Albany, set on a 56ha site at the end of the Northwestern Motorway.   Read more »

Fran O’Sullivan – Call in the Auditor-General

Fran O’Sullivan adds another of the cuts in Len Brown’s long and slow death by a 1000 cuts.

Auditor-General Lyn Provost is the right person to take inquiries into Len Brown’s relationship with the SkyCity hotels and casino operator to the obvious next stage.

The mayor of Auckland has attempted to brazen his way through the embarrassing detritus exposed by the EY (Ernst & Young) report into some of the implications of his two-year affair with Bevan Chuang.

But that report, emasculated as it was after legal negotiations between Brown’s lawyer and the Auckland Council’s QC, has put new material on the table which must now be investigated by the Auditor-General herself.

It was fundamentally inappropriate for Brown to take the three freebies and accept five upgrades from the SkyCity and SkyCity Grand hotels in Auckland.

Particularly, as the Auckland Council had to take a position on the Government’s controversial “pokies for convention centre swap” and the mayor – who had previously railed against problem gambling – let his principles melt away.   Read more »

Fran O’Sullivan on Len Brown being above the rules

Fran O’Sullivan from the NZ Herald doesn’t hold back as she discusses Len Brown’s propensity to fail to abide by the rules.

If he had any skerrick of honour left, Len Brown would by now have tendered his resignation as mayor to the people of Auckland.

It is absolutely clear that Brown has obtained multiple private benefits by virtue of his position as Mayor of Auckland.

It’s now time for Auditor-General Lyn Provost to open up a much wider inquiry to satisfy Aucklanders – and New Zealanders at large – just where Brown’s abuse of his position stopped.

Brown is hopelessly compromised by the Ernst & Young (EY) report, finally released after lengthy “negotiations” between the mayor’s office and Auckland Council chief executive Doug McKay on just what would be made public from the review into the possible use of council resources during the mayor’s two-year affair with Bevan Chuang.  Read more »

McKay too smart for Brown

Word on the street around Auckland is that Len Brown is looking for a lawyer who will agree with him that Doug McKay improperly called for the investigation.

The report by all accounts is dreadful for Brown but his camp feel confident that they can try to marginalise the process by which McKay initiated then prosecuted the inquiry.

They may even try to injunct the report coming out which would be truly stupid, but then again he conducted a two year affair inside the mayoral office, so I guess stupid is as stupid does.

However Fran O’Sullivan explains carefully how Doug McKay has appeared to outsmart Len Brown by keeping the Auditor-General informed of every step.

Auditor-General Lyn Provost is keeping a watching brief on Auckland Council chief executive Doug McKay’s review of Mayor Len Brown’s possible use of council resources during his two-year affair with Bevan Chuang.

Impeccable sources have confirmed to me that Provost has been in frequent close contact with McKay since he appointed top accounting firm Ernst & Young to undertake the review on his behalf.

It has clearly been a testing brief for McKay to effectively investigate his own boss. Insiders have correctly described the process as involving a good deal of “negotiation” between the mayor’s office and McKay’s executive suite to gain access to the information necessary for Ernst & Young to do a credible job.

McKay has been receiving advice from Crown Solicitor Simon Moore, whose warrant covers the greater Auckland area. Brown has his own legal adviser.   Read more »

He shoots, he scores…oh wait!

Labour deputy leader Grant Robertson’s complaint to the Auditor-General has fallen on deaf ears. There is nothing untoward about the process by which Ian Fletcher was appointed.

The auditor-general will not investigate the appointment of spy boss Ian Fletcher, the watchdog has announced.

In a statement, the office of the auditor-general said the law does not prescribe any particular process that must be followed before appointing the director of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).  Read more »

Trotter on the Shame Jones affair

Chris Trotter echoes my thoughts on the Shane Jones affair:

Here’s a question for Labour. When confronted with evidence raising serious questions about the judgment of a senior caucus member, what should the leader do?

Should he measure the member’s actions against his own beliefs about what constitutes right and proper conduct in someone holding a ministerial warrant? Examining the facts of the case, should he ask himself how he would have acted differently? Should he take moral stock of the environment in which the member’s actions occurred? Paying special attention to the actions of the member’s staff, should he ask himself whether he would have felt comfortable working alongside them? Would he have trusted their advice?

Or, should he simply outsource the whole job to the auditor-general?

As we know Shearer sent requested the A-G look at this issue. Perhaps because he lacked the courage to deal with it internally.  Read more »

Shane Jones cleared? Not likely, that’s Labour’s spin

Labour has spent countless hours attacking National for commenting on an Auditor-General’s report ahead of release then do the same thing? This is the second time they have spun that Shane Jones is cleared:

List MP Shane Jones is expected to return to Labour’s front bench tomorrow, after the release of an auditor-general’s report into the Bill Liu immigration saga.

Labour leader David Shearer has held open the seventh slot in his line-up and the regional development, forestry and associate finance roles for Jones pending the outcome of the review.

Insiders familiar with an earlier draft of Auditor-General Lyn Provost’s report said it cleared Jones of any unlawful behaviour in approving citizenship for Bill Liu, also known as Yong Ming Yan and William Yan.  Read more »

It’s Okay it’s Taxpayers Money

The reason why PPTA, NZEI and co. state they are against Partnership Schools is because they want to protect the integrity and resource utilisation of State schools.

Apparently the State schools have an unmatched accountability…Another excuse bites the dust

The morality of some school boards has been brought into question after it was discovered they have been spending tax-payers’ money on traffic fines, satellite TV subscriptions and contracting companies owned by their trustees.

The Auditor General’s report on the education sector, based on audits carried out last year, highlights that there are at least a few schools in serious financial difficulty and 200 with a working capital deficit.

The “audit reports mentioned matters concerned with probity, prudence, or waste”, such as Tauranga’s Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o te Kura Kokiri, which spent money on an overseas trip to the Cook Islands, shipping clothing and household items overseas and for tyres and repairs on vehicles not owned by the school.

Expenditure such as this was viewed to be personal and showed a “lack of probity” by the board, the report by Auditor General Lyn Provost stated.

Some schools which breached the Education Act included Palmerston North’s College Street Normal School, which contracted a company owned by one of its trustees to carry out $87,000 worth of building and repair work, without the Education Ministry’s approval.

Rotorua Boy’s High School and Northland College were viewed to be in serious financial difficulty, with the latter borrowing $274,000 more than it was permitted and acquiring $436,000 in company shares without approval.

In total, 33 schools borrowed more than they were legally permitted, 16 gave loans to staff and 10 had conflicts of interest, including Sacred Heart College in Auckland.

 

Cathy Casey is right

NZ Herald

For once Cathy Casey is right. I hope the Auditor-General finds out who ordered the murky cover-up around the V8 Super Car decisions. This has all the hallmarks of the Volare dinner scandal that Len Brown tried long and hard to hide:

The Auditor-General is investigating Auckland councillor Cathy Casey’s complaint that a secret report on the V8 supercars was hidden from the council by its standalone events body.

Councillors approved $10.6 million on Thursday to ensure the return of the supercars to Pukekohe after Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) refused to show them a report on the financial position of parties involved in the event.

Councillors and the public have also been unable to see a “detailed risk review” referred to by Ateed because Auckland Council chief executive Doug McKay said it did not exist as a single document, but as a “multi-faceted” review of the risks.

“I am dumbfounded that a council-controlled organisation can refuse to disclose to councillors a ratepayer-funded due diligence report ahead of a major decision involving $10.6 million of ratepayers’ money,” Dr Casey said in a letter to Auditor-General Lyn Provost.

“This rushed decision … was made in the absence of crucial risk and due diligence information.”

Dodgy schools

Stuff.co.nz

There is much to be done in education if the article today is anything to go by. In the commercial world these actions are called fraud and theft, especially the nice little fuel card lark:

More than 100 schools have broken the law by mismanaging taxpayer money – including a principal and a receptionist who ticked off each other’s expenses while being in a relationship.

A report by the auditor-general found dodgy financial practices at 103 primary and secondary schools during the 2010 school year.

The breaches included lending public money to staff members, buying land and buildings without Education Ministry knowledge, borrowing money without permission and trying to hide it from auditors, not keeping accounting records, and providing financial statements without any figures.

One school was slapped on the wrist for giving all its board members fuel cards, which allowed them to charge petrol to the school’s account while also being paid for it in advance.

At a kura kaupapa, the principal and the office administrator were in a relationship while authorising each other’s expenses. “This is a conflict of interest because the situation could create an incentive for the principal and the office administrator to act in ways that might not be in the best interests of the kura,” the report noted.

The audit also found 32 schools were in “serious financial difficulties” – up from 17 in 2008 and 19 in 2009. Among kura kaupapa, 29 per cent had significant deficits in their financial controls.

The increase was due to increased emphasis on accurate reporting, the Office of the Auditor-General said.

As a result of the report, Auditor-General Lyn Provost has launched a special investigation into the financial position of schools, alongside another review of school governance, due in June.

Education Minister Hekia Parata believes it is time to look at the role and structure of school boards of trustees.

The Auditor-General should also start looking at dodgy unions.