ES will con­tinue to use con­sult­ing firm

The Southland Times - - News - Rachael Kelly rachael.kelly@stuff.co.nz

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

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