Thursday, December 12, 2019

Today's secrecy legislation

Introducing legislation which shits on the public's right to know seems to have become a daily occurrence for this government. Today's example is the Infrastructure Funding and Financing Bill. The bill establishes a framework for the establishment of "special purpose vehicles" (SPVs) to hide debt from local government balance sheets fund infrastructure such as roads and sewers in "high-growth" councils. SPVs will collect and spend public money in the form of an "infrastructure levy" collected through the local rating system, and will exercise local government powers in their specific areas to enable construction. But they will not be subject to the Official Information Act or LGOIMA, instead having minimal "bespoke disclosure and reporting obligations" which basicly amount to publishing an annual report.

(There's also a statutory Monitor to keep an eye on such entities, but as they must be a government agency, they should be covered).

Local bodies collecting rates and exercising statutory powers to acquire land and construct infrastructure are rightly subject to the transparency provisions of the LGOIMA. The same should apply to these "special purpose vehicles". Otherwise we're effectively seeing a transfer of local government powers into some secret, unaccountable netherworld. And that should not be acceptable to anyone.