Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dodgier and dodgier

So it turns out that the PM's own department ignored Treasury advice that it needed to seek guidance on the probity of his dealings with SkyCity:

the report notes that the Tourism Ministry, for which Mr Key has responsibility, was told by Treasury in November 2009 to seek advice from the Auditor-General "to determine the probity" of its discussions with the casino company.

"We have no record of any contact with ministry officials on this topic at this time," Deputy Auditor-General Phillipa Smith said in her report.

Ms Smith said she had concerns about officials' willingness to support discussions between SkyCity and ministers and their staff developing into more substantive negotiations, "without preparing to give advice on the Government's procedural obligations and options".

The Tourism Ministry now sits within the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and a spokeswoman yesterday confirmed that neither Tourism nor other officials running the subsequent Expression of Interest (EOI) process sought advice from the Office of the Auditor-General.

This is a serious failing, and the sort of thing someone should be losing their job over. And if the person who made it was the Prime Minister, then it should be him.

Meanwhile, unsuccessful bidders who wasted their time being played along as cover while Key did his backroom deal with SkyCity are now wanting their money back. Key's crony capitalism could yet cost us a significant amount of money.

I agree with Vernon Small: the stench around this deal is simply too much. The only way to restore public confidence is to scrap it and start again from scratch with a fair tender process. maybe SkyCity will win that process, maybe it won't. But if it does, at least it'll do it fairly, rather than because it happened to buy the PM dinner a lot.