Monday, April 23, 2012

Wasting our money

FYI, the New Zealand OIA site, is really coming into its own. Its already been used to reveal that Auckland Council and its investment arm have been asleep at the wheel over the Ports of Auckland dispute. Now there seems to be some interesting revelations about extravagance in our state-owned enterprises as well.

Someone requested the personal expenses (including supporting documentation) for the CEOs of the four SOEs the government wants to privatise. Because the SOEs are still subject to the OIA, they were forced to respond. Expenses for Meridian, Mighty River and Solid Energy were fairly innocuous. Those for Albert Brantley, the CEO of Genesis Energy, are another story.

The full data is here. And the short version is that Brantley likes to spend Genesis' money on big dinners. And I mean big - $1000, $2000, even a $3100 feast at Gusto Italiano in Auckland. Those that have detailed receipts show that he gets our company to pick up the tab for $95 Wagyu steaks, $90 crayfish, and $100+ bottles of wine.

He's also a very generous tipper, throwing around $200+ at each of these meals, just to make himself look big.

Its a whole level of extravagance beyond that which saw Ministers crucified a few years ago.

Now, this sort of spending may be entirely normal in the private sector. Private companies may be perfectly happy to see their CEOs feast like kings, and use corporate money to build their own egos. But Genesis isn't a private company - its a state-owned enterprise. Quite apart from questions of how we want those companies managed, every dollar Brantley wastes in this way is a dollar we don't get in dividends, a dollar we can't spend on schools and hospitals. He is, in a real sense, stealing from all of us with his extravagance.

The expenses from other energy companies show that this is not normal behaviour for SOEs. Genesis's board needs to exercise some oversight, and pull its extravagant CEO into line. if they won't, then the Minister should sack them. Because that's our money he's wasting.