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Council Made Unauthorised Payment

Cr Jami-Lee Ross

3 August 2005

Auditor-General Finds Council Made Unauthorised Payment

An Auditor-General’s report has found that Manukau City Council officers made an unauthorised payment of $27,495 to Twig Publishing Ltd for its controversial new citywide publication.

The Office of the Auditor-General was asked in June to investigate processes followed by the Council when deciding to produce a citywide publication earlier this year.

Howick Councillor Jami-Lee Ross was one of three people critical of the Council’s actions and welcomes the findings of the Auditor-General. “The Council’s decision to invent its own propaganda machine was always flawed from the start, but the fact that $27,000 of public money was wasted in the process is inexcusable.”

Mr Ross wrote to the Auditor-General to raise concerns surrounding the proposed publication, especially about information being withheld from elected Councillors and the quality and accuracy of advice from Council officers.

The Auditor-General has found that:
- Twig Publishing did not have intellectual property rights over the proposed publication as Councillors were advised;
- Sufficient information to make an informed decision was not provided to Councillors at the Strategic Directions Committee meeting in April 2005;
- The intention of awarding a contract for the publication without a competitive tender process was unjustifiable;
- Legal advice should not have been withheld from Councillors at an extraordinary Council meeting on 2 June 2005;

- Council officers made an unauthorised ex gratia payment of $27,495 to Twig Publishing without Council approval.

Mr Ross says he has never supported the concept of the publication, but was most concerned at the amount of public money involved and the poor way in which decisions were made. “The proposed citywide publication is going to cost ratepayers half a million dollars every year for something that will be tossed straight to the rubbish bin.

“That tremendous amount is very worrying, but I am also concerned about the fact that Council officers did not provide sufficient information to Councillors at one meeting, and even refused to provide Councillors with legal advice at another.

“Councillors often have to rely on the advice of officers and we expect that advice to be of a high standard. Unfortunately in this case, poor advice has led to an unauthorised payment of money at ratepayers’ expense without prior knowledge or approval of the Council.

“The Manukau City Council is expected to make decisions in accordance with sound business practises and act in an open and transparent manner. That hasn’t happen in this case and the Council needs to sharpen up its act in the future.

Mr Ross believes the Council should discard the proposal in light of the report of the Auditor-General. “The proposed citywide publication will always be stained with the mistakes and controversy that has erupted over the last couple of months. This finding from the Auditor-General will cast a dark shadow on the whole ordeal and Council should now abandon the project in the best interests of the city.”


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