“There seems to be a bit of a witch-hunt and I’m not sure who the witch is”

Pete Rainey is a bit miffed and gotten his piggy nose out of joint because he has been named in a report from the Office of the Auditor-General regarding dodgy payments from the Nelson City Council.

During the election campaign we highlighted some rather smelly transactions which ironically, for Pete Rainey, have also been highlighted by the Auditor-General.

The Nelson City Council has been told to tighten its tendering processes after a damning report into how it awards contracts.

An audit of the council by accounting firm Crowe Horwath found it had a “number of weaknesses” in the way it manages councillors’ conflict of interest and gave 17 recommendations on how the council could tighten its processes.

In September last year, Chief Executive Clare Hadley received a letter from the Auditor General about the quality of information given about contracts associated with former councillors Pete Rainey and Ruth Copeland.

Councillors with business interests must declare them and if they are above $25,000 they must seek pre-approval from the Auditor General’s Office.  

In the case of Pete Rainey, the Rage Noise company he co-owns provided sound and production equipment for Nelson events and festivals. Ruth Copeland’s partner Huup Waagen has been awarded council contracts for events.

For the year 2015 to 2016, Rainey had approval for $90,500 of business interests, while Copeland had approval for $58,000.

The Auditor General’s letter stated council officers weren’t always adhering to proper procurement process, were missing timings and had provided inaccurate information about councillors’ interests.

It said in some cases the Auditor General’s Office was told festival and production work had gone out for tender when it hadn’t.

The letter also cited one case when “prior approval was sought for a councillor, but the contractor was already performing the service”.

It said council officers didn’t appear to understand the Members’ Interest Act and “the council does not appear to be monitoring the payments made to the councillors’ partners and businesses and are therefore not seeking prior approval in a timely way”.

Following the letter, Hadley commissioned the audit from Crowe Horwath which outlined the council’s weaknesses and reiterated the need for better procedures to ensure transparency over members’ interests.

That is pretty damning and shows we were right to rinse these guys.

Rainey said on Friday morning he was “alarmed” that he hadn’t been told about the report or given opportunity to comment before it was made public.

“I do accept that council processes could have been better but that’s easily sorted and it doesn’t need to be a case of ongoing investigations or reports,” Rainey said.

He said picking on him and his company for small-scale contracts related to events and festivals was unwarranted, and the council needed to focus elsewhere.

“There seems to be a bit of a witch-hunt and I’m not sure who the witch is.

Let me help you out there Pete, hope this identikit picture of the witch in question assists:

Rainey’s business dealings with the council came under public scrutiny last year after information sought by Deputy Mayor Paul Matheson about Rage Noise contracts ended up on Cameron Slater’s Whale Oil blog during the local body elections.

The figures also included contracts from three years before Rainey was involved with Rage Noise and at the time, Rainey said it was a “dirty politics-type scenario”.

Rainey said he was disappointed the council never investigated how the information was leaked.

He had always behaved ethically and while he accepted council processes around procurement could be tightened up, it could have been dealt with internally and not “dragged up” again.

Sounds like explaining is losing.

Thursday’s report to council states that since the concerns from the Auditor General were raised, there has already been considerable improvement by way of training both officers and members about contract and procurement practices.

Mainly by the removal of Pete Rainey as a councillor it would seem. There certainly seems to be fewer snuffling noises around the council table.

 

– Fairfax

 


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