Council boss’s power boosted
The head of Auckland Council has been given more power with the ability to spend up to $20 million in one go without the say-so of councillors.
Chief executive Stephen Town was able to write a cheque for up to $7.5 million at any one time without the approval of his political masters.
Under new rules that cap will be raised to $20 million as part of a plan to make the council’s internal processes more efficient.
The new regulations around the chief executive’s delegations, as they’re known, were approved by the council’s governing body.
It means council committees – which would otherwise spend time considering and approving those items of expenditure – don’t need to meet as often, saving on administration costs, Town says.
A full council meeting costs $19,000 an hour to run, he says.
‘‘It’s not millions and millions but it’s definitely worth doing,’’ he says.
It will also free up councillors to focus on the bigger issues.
On the flip-side, the council had started putting all contracts worth over $100,000 on the internet so Aucklanders could see what the council was spending.
‘‘If you’re going to increase the chief executive’s delegation we need to get more open information, put it on the web, about what contracts are let,’’ he says.
The ability for chief executives to spend money without seeking higher approval is standard practice in government agencies.
The chief executive of the New Zealand Transport Agency has delegated financial authority for up to $100 million, for example.
The head of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment can spend up to $10 million on operational matters and $50 million on capital expenditure.
Before the creation of the Auckland super city, the spending limit of the old Auckland City Council’s chief executive was $4 million.
Auckland Council’s current committee structure was ‘‘too busy, it’s too much’’.
As a result of the rejig committees such as parks, environment, infrastructure, and community development would go from meeting six times a year to just once a quarter, Town says.
A typical example of spending that would be covered by the new rules was a $15 million contract with a group of leisure centres.
Until now that would have been signed off by the tenders and procurement committee.
‘‘What will happen in future is . . . it would just go through its internal process and go straight to the chief executive to be approved without a loop through the committee.’’