We now have more details of the deal uncovered by the Taxpayers’ Union over the weekend between Dunedin’s Mayor Dave Cull and former MP, Pete Hodgson, which the Mayor described in the media as a “gentleman’s agreement”.
This morning’s Christchurch Press editorial analyses the deal:
Editorial: Gentlemen sign contracts too
There is no reason to believe that Cull and Hodgson are anything other than honest gentlemen, but the geographic accident that also gives them "southern man" status should not put them above the usual requirements by which local government business is conducted.
The standards that apply to council administration in the south should be no less rigorous than in Auckland city or the Whangarei district. Why should ratepayers in Dunedin tolerate a more easy-going attitude towards the spending of their money than anywhere else, just because of a romantic notion that southerners are somehow more honourable? Actually, they aren't.
Mr Hodgson has provided emails from him to the Council from August 2013, relating to 40 hours of “consulting” equalling $3,200 of the $3,400 total we questioned.
It appears the Council was wrong to tell us that no documentation or invoice was available.
Producing an invoice under public pressure is only one aspect of the matter settled. It raises a whole lot more questions:
This morning the Taxpayers’ Union went public with material concerning a payment (or payments) totalling $3,400 by the Dunedin City Council to former MP Pete Hogdson with no documentation or contract.
We're questioning the internal controls at the Council after the uncovering the payment following a recent media report that Mr Hodgson had been recruited by the Council for lobbying. We asked for information about the services being provided by Mr Hodgson under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act. Click "continue reading" below to view the Council's response.
The Council has told us that:
We asked for copies of any work by Mr Hodgson. All we got back was two letters by the mayor on which Mr Hodgson apparently had input. It is not clear what precisely that was. For example, there is no 'tracked changes" document.
We think Dunedin ratepayers will be alarmed that their Council paid $3,400 without so much as an invoice. We plan to write to the Mayor to to ask:
The Council’s response raises serious questions. We can't think of another government agency that would spend $3,400 without being able to provide as much as an invoice.
Without an explanation from the Council, we are left wondering whether the Auditor-General should get involved."