Office of the Auditor-General

The Hipkins Standard, Ctd

ᔄ Red Alert

Chris Hipkins keeps re-defining and lowering the standards of the Labour party with his Hipkins Standard. Today he has had a flick at PPP’s and forgets his Labour party history, which is strange considering he worked in Clark’s office.

This is highly amusing, as Labour passed the legislation allowing PPPs… and he should also talk to Annette king who was quite keen on PPPs as a concept:

The new Local Government Act of 2002 provided new possibilities for local authorities to work in partnership with other institutions, including central government, other councils, the private sector, and communities. The 2002 Act allowed the greater use of PPPs and required a PPP policy to be prepared and adopted as part of the long-term council community plan (now called long-term plan).

One year later, the Land Transport Management Act 2003 allowed public road controlling authorities to enter PPP-style concession agreements (see Figure 1) with third parties to build or operate roads. The term of the concession could not exceed 35 years and the responsible Minister had to approve any such agreement.

Hipkins’ criticism of having someone actually overseeing the PPP is also in line with the Office of the Auditor General’s recommendations:

Lessons learned so far from the process include:

  • the need for clear project outcomes;
  • the importance of PPP expertise in leading and managing the project;
  • the need for senior managers to support and invest their time in the project; and
  • the need for clear communication about the outcomes being sought.

Auditor-General letter slaps ComCom

Check out this substantial communication sent from the Office of the Auditor General to the Commerce Commission.

Auditor General Submission Draft ID Determination 13 March 2012

It gives the ComCom a big slap for the way they are attacking the electricity lines companies.

By way of background, the Office of the Auditor General is the most respected, and indeed the highest independent authority in NZ. We remember well the actions of Kevin Brady investigating Labour’s dishonest actions in the 2005 elections as a high water mark for the NZ Civil Service.

So this criticism from the Office of the Auditor-General is a substantial criticism of the Commission’s Mad Dog attacks, noting their misunderstanding of their role, engaging in “duty creep”, and in need of restraint.

To quote from the letter about the Commission’s overall approach:

“At this point, we have some difficulty in understanding the expectations of the Commission because of what appears to be contradictory statements in the 2012 Draft Determination and the accompanying Draft Reasons Paper.”

The OAG accuses the ComCom of imposing unreasonable costs on Electricity distributors, that may not even make sense. See here on page 2 of the letter

“Viewed one way, these expectations could result in a much more exacting audit, with consequent cost implications. Viewed another way, such an audit may be scoped at such a high level that may not meet the Commission’s expectations.”

Check out what the OAG says about the Commerce Commission’s attempts to define extra power for itself on page 3.

“We also question if the Commissioner has the statutory authority to require auditors to state if they have a duty of care to the Commissioner in the audit report.”

The ComCom is due for a mucking out at the top, we’ve pointed out a Commissioner who needed ten months of timeout to recover from self-inflicted alcohol abuse. (Which other government roles do people get 10 months of golf and book reading to recover from their addictions?)

But clearly there is a need for political intervention to ensure the culture of the Commerce Commission is also changed.

We need an authority that promotes competition and ends anti-competitive behaviour, such as price fixing by petrol companies or supermarkets.

We need an authority that stops the shady practices by financial corporates that hurt consumers, like Credit Agricole and the failed Credit Sails financial product.

We don’t need a Commerce Commission that uses anti-commercial approaches to impose extra costs on businesses for no good reason at all.

We don’t need a Commission that is confused and contradictory in its approach to New Zealand infrastructure and public policy.

We don’t need a Commission that is power hungry and seeking to expand its role.

The Office of the Auditor General is now ringing the alarm bells – and for good reason. This should be the signal that National needs to reform the Commission and bring them back into line.

Not quite Len

Len Brown appears to have got off scot-free from his nice little rort of the Counties Manukau Pacific Trust billboard. I say appears because if you read the Herald article they say he is in the clear.

The Audit Office has found it was not inappropriate for a charitable trust to allow Auckland Mayor Len Brown free use of its billboard to promote his mayoral campaign.

Except of course that isn’t what the Office of the Auditor-General said at all. They said:

You also told us that there was some debate about the request at the meeting. The trustees resolved to make the billboard available without charge to any mayoral candidate that made an approach for such use. This was subject to the billboard’s availability, and the Trust incurring no cost.

We asked the Trust whether it made this opportunity known to other candidates or their campaign teams as well as Mr Brown’s team. Mr Jeffery told us that the Trust did not formally do so.

Mr Brown was the only candidate to use the billboard, and did so when the billboard was available – which was for about five weeks of the campaign period.

So the Trust has a meeting, decided to allow the use of the billboard to all comers and then didn’t tell anyone about that decision, except for Len Brown who had at least two key members of his campaign team on the board. One of those campaign members and Trust member, Richard Jeffrey, is the same Richard Jeffrey who then went on to get a CCo board placement foisted on the council in secret by Len brown. He is also the same Richard Jeffrey who was in attendance at the now infamous Volare dinner, a dinner that Len Brown tried to keep secret until I went to the Ombudsman to force him to tell us the truth.

All the OAG has found is that the Trust followed a process and that they managed conflict of interest issues. The simple plain fact is that the Trust made a decision and then neglected (on purpose) to make the offer of billboard space to all-comers. That to my mind is still corruption, small scale but corruption nonetheless. The Trust favoured Len Brown’s campaign above all others. The OAG evidence is clear for all those who read it not just the bit about the perceived conflict of interest.

 

Complaint about Clown of Campbells Bay

Andrew Williams has been constantly bombarding people with his inane press releases. He’s stepped up the barrage since announcing he wants to come third in the mayoralty race and it has become annoying. So, I’ve done a bit of research, and accordingly I have emailed the following letter of complaint to the Chief Executive of North Shore City Council.

_________________________________

John Brockies
Chief Executive – North Shore City Council

Dear Mr Brockies,

It has come to my attention that the Mayor, Andrew Williams, has been repeatedly emailing electioneering statements using his council resources.

These emails contain attacks against opponents, and statements that can only be construed as electioneering. They have also been posted on various websites under the guise of “press releases”.

In particular I note from the NSCC’s own guidelines issued in July (copy attached);

For the North Shore City the following guidelines will apply:

1. Council resources (staff or other) are not to be used for personal election purposes
2. No new photographs of current elected members shall be used in Council media (i.e. the website or printed media)
3. No new video film of current elected members who are standing for any office in Auckland shall be used in Council media (i.e. the website or printed media)
4. No personal column or opinion media releases shall be used in Council media (i.e. the website or printed media)
5. The Chief Executive or appropriate General Manager (or other approved staff media spokesperson) will, where relevant, act as Council spokesperson on significant issues during the period 9 July to 9 October 2010 (a situation will be relevant where it is deemed best for an Officer to comment rather than an elected member)
6. There will not be any Communications assistance (from the Marketing and Communications Department) to individuals standing for local government office

It is clear from those guidelines that the Mayor is neither complying with them in spirit or in fact.

Here is a list, by no means complete, of communication that breach some if not most of those guidelines.

2 September – Press release entitled MAYORAL NEWS RELEASE JOHN BANKS WILL NOT FRONT FOR TWO TV DEBATES
3 September – Press Release sent from [email protected] entitled  “Mayoral News Release – Mayor will hold Councillors, Local Boards and CCO Directors to account”
6 September – Press release sent from [email protected] entitled “Mayoral Media Release - WILLIAMS MARKED TOP IN FAMILY FIRST SURVEY”
6 September - Hooton Reserve’s Lucas Creek Restoration Project Stage 1 Complete

Simply put the Mayor Andrew Williams is using council resources and his incumbency to campaign, against his own council’s guidelines issued just a month ago.

I have forwarded this complaint to the Office of the Auditor-General, and await your response to this serious issue urgently.

I note too that the Auditor General’s guidelines for behaviour of incumbent politicians during an election campaign period say essentially the incumbents cannot use the resources of council in any way to further their campaign. A Wellington Mayoral Candidate got into trouble just for sending email messages to staff. The Dominion Post reported:

Auditor-general guidelines for managing public communications before elections say local authorities must not promote, nor be perceived to promote, the re-election prospects of a sitting member.
Members should not be permitted to use council communications facilities such as email for political or re-election purposes, as this was “unacceptable and possibly unlawful”.

Section 4.49 of the Auditor-General’s Good Practice for Managing Public Communications by Local Authorities says:

4.49 Promoting the re-election prospects of a sitting Member could also raise issues under the Local Electoral Act 2001. For example:

  • Local elections must be conducted in accordance with the principles set out in section 4 of the Local Electoral Act – see Appendix 1 on page 27. The principles apply to any decision made by a Council under that Act or any other Act, subject only to the limits of practicality. A breach of the principles can give rise to an “irregularity” which could result in an election result being overturned. (See Aukuso v Hutt City Council (District Court, Lower Hutt, MA 88/03, 17 December 2003)
  • The publication, issue, or distribution of information, and the use of electronic communications (including web site and e-mail communication), by a candidate are “electoral activities” to which the rules concerning disclosure of electoral expenses apply.

I await your response.

Kind Regards

Cam Slater
Candidate – Albany Ward – Auckland
m: 021 535724
w: www.whaleoil.co.nz

_________________________________

Andrew Williams can’t even follow the rules of North Shore City, how on earth can we expect him follow the rules of a city setup that he so vehemently opposed. In fact he was so implacably opposed to the Supercity that it astounding he even stands for a position on the council.

It is time for the voters of Albany to boot Andrew Williams to touch and Vote Slater, so that they can get some honesty into politics.

I have had a response from Mr Brockies and from the City Secretary Mr. Peter McArthur, who tell me that they are treating this complaint seriously and may well have already referred it to the Returning Officer.

I am looking forward to the outcome of their investigations.

Vote Slater - Albany - Auckland - Keeping the Buggers Honest

Vote Slater - Albany - Auckland - Keeping the Buggers Honest