Corrupt Auckland Transport officers are a sign of the times

Corruption in local Government is a permanent feature so you better get used to it.

Auckland Transport has yet another dodgy staff member trying to line their pocket from the public purse. That place is dodgier than a 10-day-old curry.

An Auckland Transport team leader lost his job after awarding contracts to roading giant Fulton Hogan, which sub-contracted them back to a company owned by his wife.

The issue came to light only after the Weekend Herald brought the allegation to the council body’s attention.

It was alleged that after Erle Bencich was involved in awarding contracts to Fulton Hogan, the company sub-contracted the work back to drainage and pipeline inspection company IDI Contracting Ltd.

Mr Bencich’s wife is listed as the sole director of IDI Contracting Ltd in the Companies Office under her maiden name Donna Opai. Mr Bencich has been a former director and shareholder of the company.

In a statement, Auckland Transport said an internal investigation found no evidence of illegal activity.

“However, it was determined that the individual had shown a clear lack of judgment and had not followed policies with regards to declarations of possible conflicts of interest.

“This resulted in the ending of his employment. His last day of employment was November 10, 2015,” the statement said.

Auckland Transport has declined to release a copy of the investigation, carried out by Kensington Swan.

With the SFO already investigating a number of other former Auckland Transport officers for fraudulent procurement activities (think brown paper bags of cash) it comes as no surprise to find yet another procurement officer is sliding around the peripheral edge of what’s legal.

Back in the late 1700s Scottish history professor Alexander Tytler studied and observed that all civilisations go though a cycle:


At the peak of a civilisation’s success the people become apathetic – not really giving much of a toss about what is happening outside their own abundant lives. And so the opportunity for corruption to sneak in begins.

Decline of civilisations always begins with subtle actions like officials ignoring the rule of law, along with a lack of care for the expenditure of the public purse.

It can also be observed by the slow creep of corruption as officials increasingly find opportunities to lord it over the public and when they manipulate outcomes that benefit themselves personally, like procuring contracts to their own personal benefit.

It’s all a blurring of the moral compass.

Tytler also made this profound observation: “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury.”

Yep. Everyone thinks the public purse is there for the taking, including the staff. Not that anyone will care and with a civil moral compass on the decline we can expect this sort of carry on to increase.



– NZHerald


THANK YOU for being a subscriber. Because of you Whaleoil is going from strength to strength. It is a little known fact that Whaleoil subscribers are better in bed, good looking and highly intelligent. Sometimes all at once! Please Click Here Now to subscribe to an ad-free Whaleoil.

  • stop the ACC waste

    The tragedy is that the AT CEO and AT Board just ignore the rampant corruption and effectively give the staff a “green light” to steal. Fulton Hogan should be banned from all AT and Auckland City Council contracts for 5 years. It is inconceivable that they were not aware of this instance of corruption. Perhaps more concerning is that this instance is very amateurish. How many other more sophisticated scams are being run by AT staff and compliant contractors? Nothing has changed since the Auditor General and the SFO have been through the place – same “patsies” on the board, a CEO who is completely out of depth, and the same crooked staff and contractors. The rot goes well, well beyond this hapless employee.
    The most obvious places to look next are the footpath contracting and AT recruitment. The footpath contracting has reeked to high heaven for a decade, and the contractor exposed by the Auditor General for billing hundreds of thousands for footpaths that were never done, appears to now be the prime contractor for AT.
    There is absolutely no governance at AT. The board and CEO should be resigning.
    No wonder central Government doesn’t want these crooks and clowns to be responsible for the CRL contract administration.

    • Mick Ie

      Playing Devils Advocate here. To be fair to FH, how they would have tied him in with his wife’s business as according to NZH they had set it up under her maiden name so at what point would they have made the connection?

      • stop the ACC waste

        It is hard to believe that is just pure luck that his wife’s company receives subcontracts from contracts he awards to Fulton Hogan. The SFO and AG have done numerous reviews and reports and have been very clear on conflict of interest. If they are so innocent why was the very obvious conflict not declared? FH look absolutely complicit here. It would be interesting to see if they were involved with the 16 AT staff investigated by the SFO for fraud and corruption. AT has been dogged by crooked contracting staff since day 1. The board just allow it to happen. If they were genuine the AG recommendations would have been implemented, the hapless CEO fired and best practice systems for fraud prevention implemented. The obvious weaknesses and opportunity for corruption in ACC have been blindingly obvious for years.

  • Yeah well I actually know these two, they’re not corrupt.

    I’ve known Donna since she started up and Erle used to help out while he was job hunting.

    What he’s done is show a complete lack of good judgement by not declaring a conflict of interest.
    It’s highly unlikely they got any benefit from this (I know quite a lot about how these tenders and the sub contractor models work..I’ve done enough of them)

    Our company has regular discussions around code of conduct, its definitions and corrupt practices. As a result of these discussions a certain practice of ours has now been declared outside the COC and has been ceased. It’s not illegal or even immoral but its still be stopped.

    Does AT hold similar discussions with its staff? I think (know) not! They simply throw them to the media wolves.

    Damn shame. She worked bloody hard to build her business doing something a lot of men would heave their gut’s out doing!

    • Nermal

      Whether or not they got any unfair financial advantage out of their actions is beside the point. The couple were aware of the connections and dishonestly hid them from his employer and her business partner. That was a conscious decision, and both deserve to be punished, and thrown out of the industry. If for no ther reason than is casts doubt on the 99% of us who operate(d) in this industry and have been scrupulously honest all our lives.

      • I’ve never met a “scrupulously honest” civil contractor in 30 plus years of civil construction. And where do you get the idea that they deliberately hid anything from anyone?

        On top of which I wasn’t aware Donna had a business partner. She certainly didn’t back when I knew her.

        • biscuit barrel

          Is it a traffic control business ?
          If they did the job and the price was in line with what it normally costs, I cant see it being a dodgy deal.
          And the main contractor being Fulton Hogan, thats not a problem either, there would only be a handful who would be qualified at this level anyway.
          When the main contract was awarded , unless they listed all the subs, and that was how they knew to give it to FH, thats only the way it could be seen as rigged ?

          • ICI is a camera location business.
            She lifts sewer ans stormwater manhole lids and gully traps and pokes camera’s down them and then takes a reading off the sond in the camera and marks the depth and location on the ground.

            This tiny business is so far removed from the process of tender awards its a joke.
            At best they would possibly be named on the FH register of contractors IF they contract direct to Fulton Hogan and their rates margined and used in the tender but there is a good chance they probably actually contract to one of FH’s civil contractors and the infrastructure companies (like mine was) that do the actual installs.

            Still dumb of him not to register his conflict but hardly corrupt.

    • iancrewzen

      Wallace Westland – Knowing them or not, the whole thing stinks really bad, little things grow and get bigger, this has been noticed and is bad, really bad, there is no declaring a conflict here, he should never been a part of it EVER.

      • Wow! Bad, like really bad even?
        Perhaps if AT gave code of conduct instruction to their employees this may have been avoided?

        Like maybe?

  • Aucky

    I would also like to know more about the stripping of kilometres of heritage kerbstones from the older but slightly less affluent Auckland suburbs and having them reappear in ‘prestigious’ new developments such as Stonefields. Those kerbstones had their origins in colonial convict labour days, were still 100% functional with another century of working life in them which is more than can be said for the precast concrete stuff that has replaced them. Why were they removed, how much did their removal cost the ratepayer and who has trousered the profits?

    • dennis

      They are blue murder on Mag wheels.

  • rua kenana

    NZ was ranked among the least two corrupt countries in the world for a number of years. But it’s recently been sliding.
    Although we’re still relatively non-corrupt, if this is changing then it’s worthwhile asking why. And taking action if needed. Or maybe we can dismiss it as just due to the decline in NZ civilisation.

    • Dog Breath

      I think we do follow the cycle but each stage has extremities and we are not extreme so we have shallow excursions into each stage.

    • iancrewzen

      rua kenana – a lot of corruption is well hidden as publically it is not accepted to well, in other countries it is part of business activity every day. The largest ever fraud in NZ of some $50 billion has yet to be properly revealed, that being via the Waitangi Tribunal and “Treaty-gate”.

  • JohnO

    Some 30 years ago the Chinese were trying to work out why the USA was the pre-eminent economic power in the world. They postulated the military industrial complex or the proximity to europe or scientific backgound of the people etc. In the end they came to the conclusion it was because of the Christian heritage of the USA. The God besotted puritans and their successors certainly had the spiritual faith and courage to bequeath liberty and its consequent abundance to future generations. I suspect we have gone past the 6 oclock “abundance to selfishness” phase of the diagram and we are heading into the 7 to 8 oclock complacency to apathy phase.

  • localnews

    I’ve always been interested in the progression from primary to secondary to tertiary industries that has occurred over the last century, and in particular what happens next. Society doesn’t remain stationary, it always seemed likely that the next step was some form of conflict

  • Disinfectant

    The company’s Act requires that people hold positions in their companies in their legal names.
    If you get married, then you have to change it as this is now your legal name. If you appointed yourself, or someone appointed you in a name different from that of your legal name, you have committed an offence.

    • Dog Breath

      Is it your legal name or can a wife be legally both.

  • Richard

    Regarding the recent downgrading of NZ on corruption (from second to third), if you talk to RMA consultants they will tell you that well-heeled developers who are coming here from other countries expect that resource consents can be “bought” as they can in their home countries. The problem is particularly apparent in Auckland.

    It’s no accident the business culture of the English-speaking world has led to phenomenal innovation and advances in well-being that are the envy of the world. We would do well to protect the foundation values from certain beliefs of foreigners.

  • Richard

    AT are rank amateurs :-)
    Take the true professional grafters among Jakarta city councillors who in 2015 “budgeted” for 25 schools to install computer UPS’s (uninterruptible power supplies). A big UPS is about $1,000. The council budgeted the 25 schools at $580,000 each, and then awarded the supply contracts to fake companies. Nobody has resigned yet.

    I might add that the (remarkably enough) ethnic chinese governor Ahok is winning huge public support for manning up and taking on the breathtakingly corrupt council.

  • Kiwi Sapper

    In addition, if we are to believe a report, AT is to cease accepting the Gold Card as from July this year.
    It seems that if they can’t tax, rate, invoice, claim or steal from us, they will just cease complying with a Central Government requirement to provide an unpaid service to citizens.

  • iancrewzen

    An amazing statement from AKL Transport …. found no evidence of illegal activity.
    Clearly the actions of both the staff member and Fulton Hogan are “FRAUD”, what part don’t they understand?

  • iancrewzen

    CEO Town – one presumes all are aware that prior to somehow getting tot AKL CEO job, Stephen Town was GM AKL NZTA, about as close as you get to AKL Transport, they all know each other and they all do the same type of things …