Thursday, April 19, 2012

Key's crony capitalism

Labour has been doing some digging into the paper-trail around the SkyCity deal, and it looks like John key's dirty fingerprints are all over it. The National Convention Centre was supposed to be a competitive bid. But early on in the process, Key instructed officials to stop all work on it while he talked to SkyCity [PDF] (during which he offered to change the law for them, effectively prostituting his powers as a legislator). Once Key had cut the deal, the bid process was continued [PDF] to provide an illusion of process and fairness - despite the fact that the Prime Minister had already picked one of his cronies as the winner.

There are reasons we insist on fair and open processes to allocate government contracts. One of course is to make sure that we get the best deal. But another is precisely to prevent this sort of corrupt, backroom deal, where a Minister picks a winner in exchange for who knows what. Key hasn't just potentially ripped off the people of New Zealand - he's directly invited corruption. As a former businessman, he probably doesn't see that as a problem (after all, this is just how business operates - cronies and backrooms and handshakes under the table). But as an ordinary citizen, who wants public money spent effectively, contracts assigned on merit, and above all, government that is clean and seen to be so, I think it is absolutely unacceptable.

At the least, Key's dirty dealing has just invited all the defeated bidders to challenge the decision through judicial review. But worse, he's set a precedent, from the very top, that this sort of shit is acceptable. If this is his idea of "higher standards of government", then I'd hate to see what he thinks is corrupt.