ES will continue to use consulting firm
Environment Southland will continue to use a consulting firm but says it now has a much more robust processes in place to manage any potential conflicts of interest.
Yesterday, chief executive Rob Phillips said it would continue to use Envira Consulting Ltd, which the council’s director of policy and planning, Vin Smith, was until recently a shareholder of.
His wife remains as the director and only other shareholder of the company.
The council suspended all work with Envira Consulting Ltd after the release of an independent report completed by Bruce Robertson in October. Complaints about the use of Envira Consulting Ltd had been raised with some councillors in August.
Robertson found no evidence that Smith was involved in any way in decisions to engage the Envira Consulting Ltd or in the monitoring of its work, but did highlight informal processes and a lack of documentation. ‘‘The report found no wrong doing, and I want to make it clear that Vin Smith has acted with integrity from the start and continues to be a well-regarded and valuable director,’’ Phillips said.
‘‘I am confident that the practices put in place at the outset when Vin first flagged the conflict were followed by staff, but the lack of documentation was an unacceptable oversight and I’m sorry for any concern this may have caused.
‘‘Perception in matters as important as this cannot be underestimated and I have moved quickly to rectify the issues around documentation and to ensure our system is robust and transparent,’’ Phillips said.
The chief executive will have direct responsibility for any matter where Envira Consulting Ltd is used. The council confirmed it has completed its internal review into the handling of Envira Consulting but was unable to answer questions relating to it, because Phillips is now on leave and won’t be back until December 3.
Robertson’s report found that Smith signed off on four invoices to Envira Consulting Ltd in 2016, but the council said he realised his mistake and they were later co-signed by another director.
The council has paid more than $75,000 to Envira Consulting since it was established in 2016.
The council said Envira Consulting Ltd was contracted via an expressions of interest procurement process, and the company was distinguished from others by its knowledge in niche and technical areas, particularly air quality and contaminated land.
‘‘The report found no wrong doing, and I want to make it clear that Vin Smith has acted with integrity from the start and continues to be a well-regarded and valuable director.’’ Rob Phillips, Environment Southland chief executive