Coun­cil boss’s power boosted

Central Leader - - NEWS -

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.’’

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