This is all about trying to identify who controls Auckland City and the huge council-controlled organisations
The recent announcement by the Ports of Auckland that they have achieved consent to build a 17-metre fivestorey carpark to host imports has rightly caused an outcry among Auckland citizens.
In a June 4, 2016 Herald article by Lincoln Tan, Phil Goff, who was on the mayoral campaign trail, was quoted as saying: “My commitment is to restore Aucklanders’ access to this prime waterfront site, so that people, rather than imported cars, get to enjoy its natural beauty.”
Fast forward to November 2, 2018, to another Herald article by Simon Wilson. In it, Simon says Goff says “I am expressly forbidden from interfering with the commercial decision-making of the Port.”
The ratepayer, through Auckland Council, owns the land and the company that runs the Ports of Auckland. The council, as elected by the citizens, also appoints — and disappoint — the eight-member board that runs the Ports of Auckland. It is as simple as that.
But wait, there’s more. Simon says, in this article, let’s blame Roger Douglas and his reforms from the 1980s for this predicament.
He would have you believe that the Ports of Auckland have been an independent company, owned in name only by the ratepayers for 30 years. If you believe that, I’ll pay for your professional assistance. In addition, laws can be changed.
In another Herald article, on September 6 this year, Bernard Orsman writes: “Auckland Council’s development arm (Panuku) has hired a partner and a second lawyer from a big-city law firm at ratepayers’ expense to fight its masters at council in court.”
Are these council-controlled organisations out of control?
This column is about attempting to identify who actually controls Auckland City and the massive council-controlled organisations.
If what Goff says is truly held by him, then he has in my view abdicated any responsibility over virtually every major relationship the city has with its citizens.
I took this opportunity to screen every one of the six CCO annual reports and I’m deeply concerned at the significant lack of disclosure in them as to how $1.049 billion is expensed per year. That figure comes from adding non-disclosed costs.
For example, Ateed personnel costs are $21,857,000, yet their professional services costs were double that at $44,099,000. Auckland Transport had personnel costs of $123,578,000 but “other expenditures” of $668,689,000.
Panuku refused to disclose their numbers. Watercare had personnel costs of $69,332,000 but other expenditures of $144,148,000. These figures are all about labour costs and not capital.
Look at the graph above and note that the mayor earns $200k less than one of the six CEOs and up to $500k less than the best-paid doyen.
I make the point, as usual, that every one of these chief executives and their council-appointed boards administer monopolies supported by the power of regulation.
They often try to make out that they are private sector and in a competitive environment. They manage and dispense significant authority and power, and if used in the wrong way, they can never be held to account.
The other notable thing about the numbers from the annual reports is that not one of the council-controlled organisations has accurately identified the number of people ultimately employed, either by contract or consultancy.
Auckland citizens looking to see how their ratepayer dollars are expensed appear to be purposely misinformed.
I repeat the tragic figure of $1.049b that we need disclosure on via the six council-controlled organisations that we don’t know who, where or what the money has been spent on. Now you start to understand why the late Penny Bright was so relentless on the council opening its books.
I have only looked at the six CCOs and have yet to count the true cost of the extra 7200 people employed under the umbrella of the parent Auckland Council.
Every three years, we think as citizens we might be able to have a say by electing local boards and a governing group of councillors overseeing all of this massive employment and expenditure.
As a member of the Finance and Expenditure Committee of Auckland City, from 2011-2016, I witnessed documents placed before the governing board that were full of filtered and poor advice.
But at no time was that advice contested because the unelected CCO boards and their chief executives that run these organisations always seem to ensure their non-contested recommendations are approved.
So while you are reading this article, as you are sitting in a traffic jam on the Northern, Southern or Northwestern Motorway or the Harbour Bridge, at least give thanks to the wonderful people who run this wonderful city who have given you plenty of time to build up your yoga and meditation skills while you are in the car waiting . . . waiting . . .
I took this opportunity to screen every one of the six CCO annual reports and I’m deeply concerned at the significant lack of disclosure in them.
Auckland Transport had personnel costs of $123,578,000 but “other expenditures” of $668,689,000.