Transparency campaigner Penny Bright took her message to Auckland Council yet again yesterday.
Yet again, in a campaign that she’s fought for 2 decades, resulting in multiple arrests for her (some of those arrests spitefully contrived but not, subsequently, resulting in convictions), but over the years not too much improvement in transparency.
But it was notable at yesterday’s meeting of the council’s finance & performance committee that fewer ears were deaf to her message, and this time Ms Bright actually had some positive words to say about the opening up of council information.
The need for a change in attitude was reinforced in February with the sentencing on corruption charges of former Rodney District Council & Auckland Transport senior manager Murray Noone to 5 years’ jail, and engineering firm Projenz Holdings Ltd director Stephen Borlase to 5½ years’ jail over roading contracts.
Mr Borlase was found guilty on 8 corruption & bribery charges and Mr Noone was found guilty on 6 charges of accepting the bribes. Projenz also paid for overseas travel for Mr Noone and another senior roading engineer, Barrie George, who was sentenced last September to 10 months’ home detention.
Ms Bright told the committee she wanted to see all council-controlled organisations providing the same details of contracts as Auckland Transport now does, and she wanted subcontracts included.
She told the committee: “The court case proved you have 2 levels of corruption, public to private and private to private where back-end subcontracts are placed.
“The court showed the collaborative model was not working. That must also be reviewed because the proven corruption risk – we have the evidence for that.”
Ms Bright said the Public Records Act had been law since 2005 – created, according to the Government summary, “to support the effective management of records in the public sector… to promote government accountability through reliable recordkeeping, enhance public confidence in the integrity of government records…”
She said more recent guidelines from the Office of the Auditor-general on transparency were very clear and added: “I believe those guidelines have not been enforced.”
She also asked when the council would look at council officers holding private consultancies that dealt with the council.
Council chief financial controller Sue Tindal said the committee would have an opportunity to raise questions about these issues at its second meeting of the week, on Friday, when the quarterly reports of council-controlled organisations are presented.
However, that’s an unnecessarily tortuous process. The council could simply revert to the practice used at the former Waitakere City Council of presenting all details from tenders online when a tender was approved, which wasn’t followed at other councils around the region and wasn’t the practice put in place when Auckland Council was formed in 2010.
Attribution: Council committee meeting, public forum presentation.