Mayor welcomes decision of Auditor-General
12 October 2005
Christchurch Mayor welcomes decision of Auditor-General's office
Christchurch Mayor Garry Moore welcomes this week's decision from the Office of the Auditor-General relating to City Council spending at its Tuam Street Civic Offices.
The decision, by Assistant Auditor-General (Local Government) Bruce Robertson, says the actions of council chief executive Lesley McTurk and corporate services general manager Roy Baker were reasonable in letting two contracts in October last year.
These separate contracts were for $470,000 to renovate the council chamber, and $330,000 to do office alterations. The Auditor-General's Office had been asked by a member of the public to decide if Dr McTurk and Mr Baker had authority to let the contracts.
Mr Robertson says because the work was more than essential maintenance, it should not have been let without formal council approval. However, he says, the senior officers genuinely believed they had authority given apparent approval by the Mayor and elected members and their action therefore was reasonable.
"I'm happy to have my belief confirmed that our conduct in this matter was reasonable," Mr Moore says. "This was the result of a difference in understanding about what the council meant when it decided in March last year that only essential maintenance be done on the Civic Offices.
"A subsequent council resolution, in April this year, has clarified that ambiguity. Such contracts, if they were to be let today, wouldn't need council approval because they're in the domain of the chief executive's authority," he says.
"The contracts were let a year ago and there's been a lot of water under the bridge since. I'm certain that the two main cautions contained in this decision have already been acted upon and are now well understood by both staff and elected members," Mr Moore says.
Mr Robertson says that, when making decisions, councillors need to have all the likely implications of their decisions. He also underlines that the various informal gatherings with city councillors cannot be decision-making meetings.
"These are both good points, but the public need to know that we have already changed the way council decisions are made," Mr Moore says. "That second point is now very clear. Our system of portfolio groups, seminars and briefings is there to inform and streamline decision-making; not to supplant it. And on the first point, we are now consistently seeing council reports with meaningful analysis of what various options could mean."
Dr McTurk also welcomes the decision and says Mr Robertson's suggestions about the strength of decision-making are helpful. However, they could result in slowing council decision-making processes.
"It's important that the elected members have before them the likely implications of any decision they might make and staff do endeavour to provide this analysis of implications of potential decisions," she says.
"There is, however, potential for hold-ups when the council settles upon a course of action which has not been anticipated by the staff. In those cases, the councillors may need to consider holding off making a decision until staff can appropriately advise them."