Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Full and accurate?

When your local authority makes a decision to spend millions of dollars of your money, you'd like to know that its been properly thought through. A budget, a business case, some considered advice on the pros and cons. But when Wellington City Council made such a decision earlier this year, they apparently didn't do any of that:

A decision to subsidise Singapore Airlines new Wellington flights for the next decade saw virtually nothing put in writing.

Documents released by the Wellington City Council show that apart from a presentation made to councillors after the decision was made, the council generated a single two page document, which refers to the subsidy only in passing.


The Ombudsman, the authority appointed to monitor the official information disclosures of government agencies, has investigated the council on the information it released, and concluded that no other written documents exist.

The release suggests Lavery neither sent nor received a single piece of correspondence on the request, commissioned no analysis on Wellington Airport and Singapore Airlines' claims about the route, or had any written contact with Singapore Airlines on the payment whatsoever.

This decision effectively spent $8 million of ratepayer's money - $800,000 a year for ten years. And they appear to have done this without any formal process whatsoever. Meaning its impossible to determine in retrospect whether the spending is achieving its objectives - or even what those objectives actually were.

But apart from being a terrible process, it also appears to be a criminal one. Section 17 of the Public Records Act requires local authorities to to "create and maintain full and accurate records of its affairs, in accordance with normal, prudent business practice". Clearly Wellington City Council did not do that. And that's a criminal offence. While the penalty is derisory, a criminal conviction may encourage Mr Lavery to do his job in future.