No surprises here as corruption trial reveals culture of corruption in Auckland Council

I’m not at all surprised by revelations in the High Court yesterday.

A rare prosecution of alleged corruption in the New Zealand public sector has heard of a claimed cascading culture of bribery that saw a senior Auckland Council manager collect $1.1 million and his subordinates taken for a $3000 lunch.

The alleged gratuities extended to covering honeymoon expenses in Florida for the daughter of a senior council staffer, dozens of overseas trips, and regular monthly payments of around $8000 into the pocket of former Auckland Transport senior manager Murray Noone by roading contractor Stephen Borlase.

Noone and Borlase yesterday pleaded not guilty to charges of corrupting a public official by bribery. Borlase, who road maintenace firm Projenz is at the heart of the case, also declared himself not guilty of charges he inflated invoices.

Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey said part of the Crown’s case is that Borlase arranged matters so the Rodney District Council – and later Auckland Transport – effectively paid to have their own staff bribed.

The case has drawn considerable interest from white-collar crime watchers as it wound through the system over the past three years, particularly given New Zealand’s hiterto almost-spotless reputation for having an incorrupt public sector.

[…]   

Dickey outlined what he described as a pattern of transactions: Projenz laying on expensive hospitality for Noone’s staff; Noone invoicing Projenz for hundreds of thousands of dollars in allegedly sham “consultation” fees; and progressive larger contracts first from Rodney District Council, then Auckland Transport, being sent Projenz’s way.

At the start of the period of alleged offending Projenz was said to be barely breaking even on revenue of $1.2m. By 2012, just before the relationship was exposed and terminated, the small company was making annual profits of $3.8m from sales – almost all from contracts with Auckland Transport overseen by Noone and his team – of $8.2m.

Dickey said the Court would heard from nearly a dozen former staffers from RDC and Auckland Transport who would show – sometimes reluctantly as they were themselves implicated – that corruption had spread and become deep-rooted.

“The extensive provision of benefits to staff at all levels of their teams resulted in a culture where corruption flourished and was normalised, with no questions asked,” he said.

“There was very little chance of disgruntled or principled employees speaking out at everyone was being ‘looked after’ or was compromised.”

There has been something stinky in Auckland Council for quite some time, a legacy of the Rodney District Council and some ratbags from out West.

But when the culture of an organisation is set from the top where a rooting ratbag held onto the mayoralty through bravado, shenanigans and some backroom dealing why would anyone be surprised that corruption is endemic in the organisation?

 

– NZ Herald


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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