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More Accountability

Championing Value For Money From Every Tax Dollar

Fiscal rules

Readers will be aware that Australia is facing huge deficits, despite the promise of the previous Government to get into surplus.

As a response to this, the Centre for Independent Studies has proposed some fiscal rules to bind future Governments.

They are:

  1. require the federal fiscal balance to be maintained within a range of +2% to -2% of GDP on both an actual and forecast basis
  2. limit the net debt to GDP ratio to 10%
  3. cap the federal revenue and expenditure shares of GDP to 25%
  4. capping real growth in federal spending at 2% per annum

Fiscal rules are not new for Australia. The Labor Hawke/Keating Government set rules being:

  1. Not to raise tax revenue as a share of GDP
  2. Not to raise government expenditure as a share of GDP
  3. To reduce the budget deficit in absolute terms and relative to GDP

Anyway what I like most of all is their mechanism to encourage Governments to keep to the fiscal limits or rules. They propose:

This would involve cutting federal politicians’ overall remuneration by 1% for every percentage point breach of each fiscal rule for the duration of the breach.

Now that appeals!

NB: This post also appears on my personal blog kiwiblog.co.nzPlease feel free to comment on the post there.

Newstalk ZB on funding for yacht race that never happened

Government won't seek repayment from axed yacht race Newstalk ZB - 16/1/2014

The Government has no intention of making the organisers of an axed yacht race repay $100,000 in taxpayer funding.

The inaugural Auckland to Bluff race - scheduled for next month - was cancelled due to a lack of entrants, but not before receiving a quarter of its $400,000 government grant.

The Taxpayers' Union says organisers should be made to pay it back.

But Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says organisers have already spent the money and he doesn't expect them to find another $100,000 to pay it back. 

Business NZ finally responds to allegations of cosy deal

Stuff has just reported:

BusinessNZ rejects training scheme attacks

Business NZ has hit back at ACC Minister Judith Collins over her attacks on an ACC-funded health and safety training programme run by Business NZ, the Council Of Trade Unions and a private provider.

ACC announced this week that the $1.5 million a year programme would be canned at the end of of 2014 because it was not providing value for money.

Collins had joined criticism of the scheme, which has run since 2003, describing it as a cosy arrangement that had the hallmarks of a scam and a rort.

Business NZ today broke its silence on the issue, with a press release quoting its chief executive, Phil O'Reilly.

"For the record, Business NZ utterly rejects mistaken allegations made by lobbyist Jordan Williams since repeated by the ACC minister," O'Reilly said.

"The BusinessNZ family's involvement has been completely ethical at all times, and I am confident that this is also the case with the involvement of the CTU and Impac Services."

The CTU has also strongly rejected the criticisms by Collins and Williams.

O'Reilly said it was "unfortunate that important debate on workplace safety has been undermined by intemperate media comment".

Media reporting of uninformed assumptions by Williams appeared to have led to the minister's comments, O'Reilly said. continue reading...

Why is the Government picking losers?

Yesterday Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce announced research and development grants that are set to cost taxpayers $140million over three years. The Herald reports:

More than $140 million has been earmarked to go to 31 New Zealand tech companies in research and development grants.
Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce yesterday named companies awarded R&D growth grants from Callaghan Innovation, the Government's high-tech development body set up in 2012.
Recipients include NZX-listed companies Rakon, Scott Technology and a company owned by Wynyard Group.
The grants provide a 20 per cent contribution to a firm's annual R&D spend, capped at $5 million a year.
PTo qualify for the grants, businesses need to commit to spend at least $300,000 and 1.5 per cent of revenue on New Zealand research & development.
The grants last for three years and after two years of receiving funding, a firm can apply for a two-year extension to the assistance.

$19m wasted on health and safety training with 84c per dollar wasted

Health and safety training 'a waste of time' ONE News - 14/1/2014 

The ACC Minister is promising to scrap a Government-funded health and safety training scheme.

Judith Collins agrees with a taxpayers' lobby group, the Taxpayers' Union, that the 10-year-old scheme has been a waste of money.

Click here or the image below for video on demand.

TVNZ screenshot

ACC dumps workplace training scheme 3 News - 15/1/2014

Click here or the image below for video on demand.

 

ACC to can programme after $19m spent NZ Herald - 14/1/2014

The Accident Compensation Corporation will end a health and safety training programme it said today after activist group the Taxpayers Union highlighted almost $20 million in spending on the training which generated few benefits.

The union today released documents detailing the corporation's spending since 2003 on the programme to train employees in health and safety practices.

Beginning in 2003, the money was paid to the Council of Trade Unions (CTU), employers' group Business NZ and private training provider Impac Services.

However the documents showed the $19 million spent "did little, if anything, to reduce workplace accidents", Taxpayers Union executive director Jordan Williams said.

The documents released under the Official Information Act showed reviews of the programme showed its net effect in reducing injuries were "small in size and were inconsistent in direction to be considered effective".

ACC analysis found that over the time the programme was working there was a reduction in claims even in workplaces where no safety or workplace activity has occurred.

The analysis suggested that even if the training was responsible for half of the reduction in accidents, at best only 16c in every $1 spent did any good, or in other words, 84c in every $1 was being wasted.

The documents reveal that Business NZ and the CTU worked together with ACC to create the venture and doubts about the value of the scheme had existed since at least 2008.

"Business NZ and the CTU have created a nice little earner for themselves", said Mr Williams.

"It's a disgraceful example of big corporate and union welfare chewing through taxpayer cash."

ACC spokeswoman Stephanie Melville today said the corporation decided late last year "that the training programme wouldn't be continued past its current contract".

"While the training programme did provide some value, it did not meet our level of expectations, nor deliver value for money."

Click here to continue reading.

ACC cuts $1.5m in health, safety training stuff.co.nz - 14/1/2014

Accident prevention training may end Otago Daily Times - 15/1/2014

Lucrative training programmes which the Taxpayers Union says has cost ACC levy-payers $19 million since 2003 may be close to ending.

The union released documents yesterday which showed ACC knew millions of dollars paid to BusinessNZ and the Council of Trade Unions to provide health and safety training did little, if anything, to reduce workplace accidents.

The documents were obtained under the Official Information Act.

Taxpayers Union executive director Jordan Williams said the documents showed BusinessNZ and the CTU worked together with ACC to create the venture. Doubts about the value of the scheme had existed since at least 2008.

''BusinessNZ and the CTU have created a nice little earner for themselves. It's a disgraceful example of big corporate and union welfare chewing through taxpayer cash.''

ACC axing union health and safety partnership Newstalk ZB - 14/1/2014

ACC admits programme poor value Radio NZ - 14/1/2014

Click here to listen to item on Checkpoint ( 2' 39'' )

ACC programme a cosy deal, says minister Radio NZ - 15/1/2014

Click here to listen to Judith Collins on Summer Report ( 7' 08'' )

BusinessNZ rejects training scheme attacks stuff.co.nz - 16/1/2014

Business NZ has hit back at ACC Minister Judith Collins over her attacks on an ACC-funded health and safety training programme run by Business NZ, the Council Of Trade Unions and a private provider.

ACC announced this week that the $1.5 million a year programme would be canned at the end of of 2014 because it was not providing value for money.

Collins had joined criticism of the scheme, which has run since 2003, describing it as a cosy arrangement that had the hallmarks of a scam and a rort.

Business NZ today broke its silence on the issue, with a press release quoting its chief executive, Phil O'Reilly.

Continue reading.

Minister softens over claims of rort in ACC workplace safety training NZ Herald - 17/1/2014

Judith Collins said the programme had 'all the hallmarks of a rort' which 'added very little for the money'. Photo / NZPA
Judith Collins said the programme had 'all the hallmarks of a rort' which 'added very little for the money'. Photo / NZPA

... Ms Collins had spoken to CTU Secretary Peter Conway and while she wouldn't apologise "she said she will no longer use the word rort".

Ms Collins last night confirmed she had spoken with Mr Conway and had agreed to try "not to use those words".

However she maintained the scheme had been "a complete waste of money and a disgrace". Read more.

ACC cans useless scheme publicly, but extended the contract within the last month

Yesterday it looked like the Taxpayers' Union struck up it's first win, with ACC announcing that it would scrap the health and safety training scheme which has cost levy holders $19million to date, with 84 cents per dollar being wasted (even with optimistic assumptions).

ONE News3 Newsthe HeraldStuffRadio NZ, and Newstalk ZB all reported that ACC had decided to scrap the programme late last year.

ACC wastes millions on a cosy deal with Business NZ and the CTU

ACC has a cozy deal with Business NZ and the CTU despite knowing 84 cents per dollar wasted

Material released by the Taxpayers’ Union show a cosy deal between Business New Zealand, the Council of Trade Unions ("CTU") and ACC has cost ACC-levy payers $19 million since 2003.

The documents, available and summarised below show ACC knew that millions paid to Business NZ and the CTU to provide health and safety training did little, if anything, to reduce workplace accidents.

Cr Young on Wellington City Council's living wage

Cr Nicola Young, whose motion to consult before Wellington implemented the living wage was defeated 8 votes to 5, writes in today's Dominion Post.

Wellington City Council has lit a fuse leading to a bomb of unknown size, with its vote to implement a "living wage" for its employees from January 1.

Councillors often stress the need for evidence-based, reasoned and clear decisions; correct process; and the need to avoid writing blank cheques but there was little - if any - consultation and analysis of the impact this wages policy would have on Wellington households and businesses. Ironic, considering the council has also committed to the capital being "open for business".

This is key. As we've pointed out before, the study by Auckland Council, and advice from the Treasury on the question of whether a living wage policy is a good tool to reduce poverty is damning.

Mayor Celia Wade- Brown has defended this Alice in Wonderland approach by pointing out the council didn't consult on the chief executive's salary either. The reality is that the CEO is paid the going rate in a competitive international market, whereas the "living wage" is an artificial intervention to boost incomes of lower paid workers who happen to work at the council.

The "living wage" proposed by the Living Wage Aotearoa New Zealand Campaign, is higher (relative to GDP per capita) than the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. Incredibly, ours is higher than London's; the 18th most expensive city in the world (Wellington is ranked at 74th in Mercer's Cost of Living survey).

This is incredible.  Wellington Council want low income Wellintonians to pay more in rates to fund a 'living wage' higher than London's!  

The piece doesn't mention the hypocrisy of some Wellington Councillors voting to implement a living wage despite not paying it to their own staff.

We're all for higher wages, but taxing more in rates to artificially pay some more is not the way to get there.

Click here to read the rest of Cr Young's piece on the Dominion Post's website.

Oops - looks like DoC isn't the only 'supporter' of the AAE caught unaware

Further to my discovery and blog post earlier today that DoC is in fact not supporting the Australian Antarctic Expedition ("AAE") - despite being listed as such on the AAE website, the Australian blog "Watts Up With That" reports that the Australasian Antarctic Devision (i.e. a division of the Australian Department of the Environment) has also been caught on the hop as an unknown 'supporter' of the AAE trip to the ice.  The Ministry has made an effort to disassociate itself on Australian radio ABC.

Australian Antarctic Division head Tony Fleming says they’ll make efforts to recover the cost of #spiritofmawson rescue

From radio 666 ABC in Canberra, Australia, full audio follows.

Tony Fleming, director of the Australian Antarctic Division tells Louise Maher the AAD wasn’t linked to the Australasian Antarctic Expedition despite an implication by the expedition head that he had an “official stamp of approval”.

The expedition was brought to a halt when its ship became trapped in ice, stranding the 52 tourists and scientists on board.

A Chinese ice-breaker which went to its rescue of the Russian ship also became stuck in the ice. The ship’s passengers were airlifted to an Australian ice breaker Aurora Australis – which is due to reach Hobart in about a fortnight.

Tony Fleming says the AAD will make efforts to recover the cost of the rescue which set back their own missions.

Listen to the audio:

 

Also, since this morning's post one of our volunteers has  pointed out the following on the AAE website:

That would appear inconsistent with what DoC told us yesterday, i.e. that no support was being provided.

 

So what's going on? Are the Australian scientists or DoC fibbing? Or it is a case of the right hand of DoC not being aware of the left is up to? Is it just a coincidence that the Australian equivalent of the Ministry for the Environment was mistakenly included as a 'supporter' with our own DoC?

I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Good work DoC - but questions about AAE claiming support

Following the well publicised case of global warming scientists being stuck in record pack ice in Antarctica (ironically the expedition was intended to study the dwindling sea ice) and the efforts to rescue them, the Taxpayers' Union began enquires late last year to find out precisely how much taxpayers' money the NZ Government "supporters" listed on the expedition's website had contributed.

It appears that thankfully New Zealand taxpayers' haven't forked out the huge amounts feared. In fact, it appears that the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) is claiming at least one 'supporter' it doesn't have...

The expedition's website lists expedition supporters the Department of Conservation, Landcare Research, and the University of Waikato.

 

Despite asking the AAE leader (via email and his very active twitter account), and the media contacts at the University of New South Wales, no one would tell us how much kiwi taxpayers had contributed via the three agencies.

On 1 January we lodged Official Information Act requests with DoC, Landcare and the University of Waikato.

To DoC's credit it responded by 8 January, stating that DoC were not participants in the expedition and therefore the information (i.e. what financial and non-financial support was given) does not exist. DoC's letter and our response is below.

Department of Conservation response and Taxpayers' Union request for clarification re AAE January 2014.

 

Last night DoC's Director of Policy Jeff Flavell called me and confirmed that the Department not being 'a participant' in the expedition was intended to mean that DoC did not provide any support to AAE at all. In fact he seemed surprised that DoC was listed as a supporter on the AAE website and that he would ask his officials whether it was known that the AAE was using the DoC logo and claiming support.

So credit for DoC for coming back to us so quickly and from someone so senior, especially given our recent expose of failings within the department.

We await the responses from Waikato and Landcare.

MP employment spats costing taxpayers

This morning the New Zealand Herald covered figures released by the Taxpayers' Union show that MPs are chewing through more than $65,000 per month on payouts to avoid messy employment grievances.

Parliamentary Service spent nearly $400,000 on payouts for former staff in the second half of last year, a period in which the agency was mired in controversy.

Figures released by the Speaker showed that since June, 20 former employees had received a severance payment. On average, former staff received nearly $20,000 each.

Parliamentary Service employed around 650 people including assistants and advisers for MPs in Wellington and regional offices, and also staff within the parliamentary precinct such as security guards.

Eleven of the people who received severance packages had worked for MPs.

Parliamentary Service group manager shared services Anne Smith said the number and amount of payments was higher than usual because the agency was being restructured and because of a high turnover of MPs in the second half of the year.

She said the costs would be offset by the improvements made in the restructuring.

Labour Party MP Grant Robertson said that the payments reflected a turbulent period for the agency.

"It would be fair to say that morale has been pretty low in the Parliamentary Service and obviously from the point of view of MPs we don't want to see that carry on."

General manager Geoff Thorn resigned in August after it was revealed that Parliamentary Service had passed on emails between Fairfax reporter Andrea Vance and United Future leader Peter Dunne to an inquiry investigating the leak of a sensitive report.

Taxpayers' Union spokesman Jordan Williams criticised the costly use of public money to pay out former staff. He claimed that Parliamentary Service was "buying the silence" of workers who had been sacked on the spot by MPs.

A clause in parliamentary staff contracts allowed instant dismissal of staff in cases of "irreconcilable differences".

Mr Williams said he knew of two dismissals in which a minor party leader refused to hear their employee's response to allegations made by other colleagues.

Parliamentary Service would not confirm how many of the payments related to the irreconcilable differences clause, but said the agency followed strict processes in dealing with employment disputes.

The payments usually covered three months' wages and any outstanding leave or other entitlements.

The figures released did not include ministerial staff.

Severance payments

MP support staff: Eleven payments totalling $122,935.
Other staff: Nine payments totalling $273,006.

The two instant dismissals referred to in the Herald story, were due to a minor party leader being unwilling to hear his employee’s response to a minor allegation made by a colleague. The former employees were offered confidential payouts from Parliamentary Service well above what the individuals were advised they would likely be awarded in court. 

While every other New Zealander must follow the letter of employment law, information released to the Taxpayers' Union suggests that MPs are often ignoring it and having taxpayers fund the resulting payouts. It appears that parliamentary officials offer generous settlements to avoid cases going to the Employment Relations Authority. We think that protecting MPs with such a practise affords them a privilege that only invites further abuse. 

To date Ministerial Services has refused to provide the equivalent information for ministerial staff. The Taxpayers' Union currently has a complaint regarding that decision before the Ombudsman.

The Herald on the iTax

This morning's NZ Herald covers an opinion poll it commissioned on public support for lowering the threshold GST is applicable to for purchases made on foreign websites:

A Herald-DigiPoll survey this month found that almost 55 per cent of the 750 New Zealanders polled had bought goods from foreign websites.Of those surveyed, 53 per cent said the $400 exemption should not be removed as the tax would be too inconvenient to collect.

Surprisingly, just under 40 per cent - 38.5% - agreed with the view of the Retailers Association that the 15 per cent GST should be applied to all overseas online purchases to level the playing field for local retailers.

Cost of Royal visit less than full time head of state

Taxpayers' Union positive about royal visit Newstalk ZB 21/12/2014

A body set up to critique the way taxpayers' money is spent is feeling positive about next year's royal visit.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - William and Kate - have confirmed a trip to New Zealand in April.
It's not yet clear if Prince George will travel with them.
Taxpayers' Union spokesman Jordan Williams says while the cost of the trip isn't yet known....it may not be as bad as some people expect.
He says New Zealand is only picking up the tab for the few days the royals are here, while other countries have to carry the cost of a royal family or a president all year.

Taxpayers' Union Uncovers Massive IT Screw Up Within DOC

The Taxpayers’ Union revealed a massive cost overrun of a mismanaged IT project jointly commissioned by DoC and Land Information New Zealand (LINZ).  Two independent reports on the project are damning of DoC.  They blame mismanagement and ineffective governance for the project’s failure. It appears that LINZ has walked away from the project and has left DoC to pick up the pieces.  A selection of the media coverage is below.

Another govt IT project failure - this time at DoC New Zealand Herald - 18/12/2013

Yet another Government IT project has gone off the rails with a new Department of Conservation land management system costing taxpayers millions in budget overruns while still failing to deliver as promised.

And as in the case of the Novopay debacle, officials have blamed an Australian IT company.

The National Property and Land Information System (NaPALIS) initiated two years ago was joint programme intended to replace the Department of Conservation's (DoC) and Land Information NZ's (Linz) existing systems, with Tasmanian company ICS winning the contract.

However documents obtained under the Official Information Act by activist group the Taxypayers Union reveal the $5.6 million project was completed several months late in September last year, required an extra $588,967 to complete and even then failed to function as required by DoC.

DoC has now allocated about $2 million of additional funding to make the programme fully operational.

Personality clashes causing budget blowout Newstalk ZB - 18/12/2013 

Trouble between LINZ and DOC 

Personality clashes between government departments could be to blame for a failing and over budget information system.

Documents released to the Taxpayers' Union show efforts for the Department of Conservation and Land Information New Zealand to work together to create a database of the country's land have been dodgy at best.

Union spokesperson Jordan Williams says the project is now $2 million over budget, and still not fully operational.

He says two independent reports blame ineffective governance, and even officials from the the two departments not getting along.

System now top priority

An expensive and overdue information system is now the top priority for Department of Conservation bosses to see fixed.

The National Property and Land Information System was due to be finished early last year, but still isn't fully operational, and needs an injection of $2 million for bug fixes.

Director-General Lou Sanson says he doesn't like waste, so he's determined to get it sorted.

He says taxpayers can be assured he'll wring maximum value out of the system to make up for the delays.

DoC admits failings over IT blow-out Radio New Zealand - 18/12/2013 

Click here to listen to Checkpoint interview with Lou Sanson, Director General, DOC

Click here to listen to Checkpoint interview with Jordan Williams, Taxpayers' Union

Cost overruns with DOC computer system Otago Daily Times - 18/12/2013

Taxpayers' Union 'uncover massive IT screw up' Yahoo! New Zealand - 18/12/2013

EXCLUSIVE: Tip off to Taxpayers' Union uncovers IT stuff up and cost overrun at DOC

The tip line works

Just after publicly launching in October, the Taxpayers' Union received an anonymous tip off that there was a massive cost overrun of a mismanaged IT project jointly commissioned by DoC and Land Information New Zealand (LINZ).  The National Property and Land Information System (“NaPALIS”) had allegedly been a failure, with DoC still picking up the pieces 18 months after the project was scheduled to be complete.

This morning a DoC official hand delivered the response to the requests for information by the Taxpayers' Union. We understand that the Director General will be making a public statement this afternoon.

The material includes two independent reports that are damning of DoC.  They blame mismanagement and ineffective governance for the project’s failure. It appears that LINZ has walked away from the project and has left DoC to pick up the pieces.

We're still reviewing the material, but to summaries one of the independent reviews of the project (conducted by Deloitte), it found:

  • ineffective governance;
  • inadequate business ownership;
  • lack of shared vision and shared outcome by DoC and LINZ for NaPALIS;
  • the NaPALIS Programme’s failure to deliver benefits to DoC;
  • lack of effective and inclusive requirements and development phase;
  • ineffective work on cultural alignment and change management between DoC and LINZ;
  • personality clashes between the DoC and LINZ;
  • an “us and them” approach -the report says:
  • “The Programme Manager was seen to be working only for LINZ most of the time, leaving DoC to flounder”;
  • lack of focus by the Programme Manager on achieving a join outcome;
  • lack of accountability by the Programme Manager;
  • ineffective vendor management; and
  • lack of independent quality assurance.

Update:

The NZ Herald have now picked up the story. Our media release is copied below.

MEDIA RELEASE

TAXPAYERS’ UNION UNCOVER MASSIVE I.T. SCREW UP WITHIN DOC

18 DECEMBER 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Taxpayers’ Union has uncovered an IT screw up within the Department of Conservation as a result of a tip-off to taxpayers.org.nz relating to DoC’s National Property and Land Information System (“NaPALIS”).

Two independent reports by accountancy firm Deloitte are damning of DoC. They blame mismanagement and ineffective governance for the project’s failure. NaPALIS was joint project between DoC and Land Information New Zealand. Despite DoC allocating over $2 million in additional funding, the system is still not fully operational. The IT project has cost taxpayers over $6 million and LINZ appear to be leaving it to DoC to fix up the mess.

“This is DoC’s very own Novopay,” says Jordan Williams, Executive Director of theTaxpayers’ Union. “The two independent reviews show how mismanaged the project was from day one. It appears that LINZ have now walked away from the project and left DoC with a system which isn’t up to the replacing the old one.”

“The warning bells were ringing from the start. There needs to be accountability for the taxpayers’ money that has been wasted on a computer system that doesn’t work.”

“DoC’s internal ‘closure report’ skims over the two damning Deloitte reports. It suggests that no lessons have been learned.”

“While the Taxpayers’ Union is troubled by what has been uncovered, at least the public can now see how badly the project was mismanaged by DoC. The Taxpayers’ Unionbegan researching the issue after an anonymous tip off at taxpayers.org.nz.”

The information and reports by Deloitte released by DoC to the Taxpayers' Union are available at www.taxpayers.org.nz.

Q & A

What is the NaPALIS Programme?
The NaPALIS Programme and resulting new Land Management Information System was to bring together 9 business groups across LINZ and DoC to create a single, shared ‘source of the truth’ for over 40% of New Zealand’s Land totaling over $6 billion in value.
 
When was NaPALIS expected to go live?
NAPALIS was scheduled to go live in February 2012. In March 2012, this was revised to May 2012. It went ‘partially operational’ in September 2012. For DoC, the system is still not operational.

How much did the programme cost and is it finished?
The programme is now 18 months overdue and it still doesn’t work. To fix the bugs, DoC and LINZ initially increased the budget by $588,967 to $6,194,134. It appears that LINZ has now walked away from the project leaving DoC to allocate another $2 million to complete it.

What’s the latest $2 million for?
Despite the extra spending by DoC and LINZ, NaPALIS is still only partially operational.  The new $2 million allocated is to address (among other things):

  • work to resolve the majority of system defects necessary to make NaPALIS operational;
  • including the backlog of necessary changes that were not part of the initial data migration;
  • completing a technical review and considering design solutions;
  • resolving essential architecture issues; and
  • process development and system changes relating to Treaty of Waitangi matters.
What does the first expert review say?
There were warnings back in March 2013 when Deloitte published it first report. It shows that:
  • the role and authority of the NaPALIS was being “undermined”;
  • there was no external member of the Steering Committee;
  • there were issues of scope; and
  • that delays were persistent.
The report also says:
  • There was a lack of clarity around business ownership with DoC and LINZ
  • The Programme did not have a consistent approach to Independent Quality Assurance (‘IQA’) from the outset.
What does the subsequent independent report say? 
The February 2013 Deloitte report is even more critical of DoC.  The specific issues it identifies are:
  • ineffective governance;
  • inadequate business ownership;
  • lack of shared vision and shared outcome by DoC and LINZ for NaPALIS;
  • the NaPALIS Programme’s failure to deliver benefits to DoC;
  • lack of effective and inclusive requirements and development phase;
  • ineffective work on cultural alignment and change management between DoC and LINZ;
  • personality clashes between the DoC and LINZ;
  • an “us and them” approach - the report says:
  • “The Programme Manager was seen to be working only for LINZ most of the time, leaving DoC to flounder”;
  • lack of focus by the Programme Manager on achieving a joint outcome;
  • lack of accountability by the Programme Manager;
  • ineffective vendor management; and
  • lack of independent quality assurance.
The report’s conclusions include:
  • NaPALIS went live in September 2012 after a number of delays.  It was implemented over budget and several months after it was expected to be implemented.  We believe that there was potential to deliver a join successful outcome.  However, ineffective governance and management of the NaPALIS Programme has meant that a successful outcome has not been delivered forboth organisations. LINZ are using the new tools and processes that NaPALIS provides, whilst DoC do not feel able to use these new tools and processes effectively.  DoC are indicating that another Programme of work is required costing several hundred thousand dollars to get NaPALIS to a point where it will meet their business needs.”
  • “We do not believe that the Programme was set up well from the outset and that the Governance and Programme/Project Management controls that were put in place fell short of good practice.

Can the public access the material?
We’ve uploaded the information released by DoC under the Official Information Act is copied below.

ENDS 

DoC's reponse to Taxpayers' Union requests on NaPALIS

Tax break or corporate hand-out? A brief comment on Avatar deal

Yesterday the Prime Minister announced a deal with Hollywood studios that will allow up to 25% tax rebates on film production expenditure within New Zealand.

While we can all applaud our world-class film industry and the jobs the deal will create, why is the film industry so special? Many industries are still suffering from a high dollar and increased international competition. As the Government acknowledges (at least for film producers) tax matters when it comes to business choosing what country to invest - we compete against the world.  Why should less high profile or ‘cool’ industries shoulder the burden while the film industry is sheltered – would we better off if the Government worked harder to lower taxes for all?  

KPMG have a useful tool to compare tax rates (corporate, individual and indirect) on their website. 

Click here to comment on this blogpost via the Taxpayers' Union Facebook page. Should we working to become more competitive overall, or should we encourage our politicians to 'cut more deals'?  At what point does it become corporate hand-outs?

Mayor Brown must pay the money back

As widely covered by media over the weekend, the EY report into suspected misuse of Auckland Council resources by Len Brown is deeply concerning. In addition to the undeclared freebies (including undeclared gifts from Skycity - at the same time as publicly championing the convention centre deal) the report fails to deal with the concerns raised by the Taxpayers' Union in relation to the Mayor's trip to China in January 2013.

We still don't know for example:

  1. What was Mayor Brown's spending on the trip?
  2. Why was the trip not announced in the same way as other official trips by Mr Brown?
  3. Why did officials mislead us about the existence of the trip?
  4. Why were officials instructed to refer all enquires about the trip to Mr Brown's Chief of Staff?
  5. Were officials instructed not to disclose the existence of the trip?
  6. What was/is the Council or Mayor trying to hide?

Apology hollow without offer to refund Auckland ratepayers

Today we called on Mr Brown to pay back the money for both his personal expenses and undeclared gift listed in the EY report.  Without the offer to pay the money back, we think the apology made by Mr Brown today to ratepayers is meaningless.

 

MEDIA RELEASE

BROWN APOLOGY HOLLOW WITHOUT OFFER TO REFUND RATEPAYERS

16 DECEMBER 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on Auckland Mayor Len Brown to pay back the amount owed to Auckland ratepayers for his personal expenses and undeclared gifts listed in the EY report released on Friday.
 
“Len Brown’s apology is meaningless without an offer to pay the money back,” saysTaxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams.
 
“Mayor Brown hasn’t addressed whether he will be paying back the $2,898 EY calculated were the costs of personal calls borne by ratepayers. While the nearly $40,000 worth of gifts Mayor Brown received were mostly services in kind, his failure to disclose them puts a moral obligation on Mayor Brown to pay for them.”

"Mayor Brown is one of the few senior Labour Party figures to publicly back the SkyCity Convention Centre deal. That we now know he was secretly receiving gifts of SkyCity raises serious questions. At the very least he should pay the money back," concludes Williams.

ENDS

Competition winner announced

Yesterday the Taxpayers’ Union  announced the winner of its competition for the Aucklander with the highest percentage increase in rates and user-charges.

The winner is Mrs Glenys Smith of Howick, whose rates have more than doubled since 2003.

Mrs Smith is a classic example of an Auckland householder paying more but getting less. In 2003 Mrs Smith’s rates were $1,371 in 2003. They are now more than double, up to nearly $3,100 for 2013/2014.

Mrs Smith also pointed out in her entry that, “When the wastewater charges were taken off the rates, the rates didn’t go down to compensate!”

Mrs Smith wins a KraftMaster petrol lawnmower (perfect for mowing the berms).

The other winner is Mr Colin Shearer of Sunnyhills. Though Mr Shearer didn’t provide the required user charge details to qualify for the lawnmower, his un-capped rates increase was the highest we received. As a discretionary prize, the Taxpayers’ Union is giving Mr Shearer a weed-wacker.

Mr Shearer’s uncapped rates increase is 34.2 per cent, from the 2011/2012 base year. That means that his rates will be over a third higher, in less than four years.

While Len Brown is hiding behind the ‘average’ figure of 2.5 per cent, this is merely an attempt to disguise just how much extra some Auckland households are paying. As the entries show, many Aucklanders are paying much more, while the Council is reducing services such as berm mowing.

Len Brown "still has questions to answer"

Brown thinks Aucklanders just want Council to get on with work Newstalk ZB - 14/12/2013

He may have been officially cleared, but the Taxpayers' Union believes Len Brown still has questions to answer.
An Ernst and Young review has revealed the Auckland Mayor failed to declare tens of thousands of dollars worth of complimentary hotel rooms and upgrades.
It also shows ten percent of texts and calls on a cellphone the ratepayers funded, were to his mistress.
Taxpayers Union spokesman Jordan Williams doesn't buy the idea the report puts the Mayor in the clear.
"There's still plenty of questions to ask about his misuse of public resources.
"We still have plenty of questions around this trip to China, and particularly why council officials originally mislead us about the existence of the trip."
Len Brown is hoping Aucklanders will consider his conduct, including extensive personal use of a council cellphone, in context.
The Mayor thinks he's done nothing wrong, and says the rules aren't clear.
"There are differences of opinion, interpretation, and upgrades issue around gifting, the phone utilization, some of the stuff around my car.
"There hasn't been a real clarity around that when there needs to be, and learnings."
Len Brown says an overhaul of the issues will make the rules more clear.

Report doesn't address secret trip to China - Taxpayers' Union Yahoo! New Zealand - 13/12/2013

City staff spent $220,000 at America's Cup

Anger at ATEED spending on America's Cup NewstalkZB - 6/12/2013

The New Zealand Taxpayers Union is lashing out at council-controlled Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) for spending more than $200,000 on sending staff and media to the America's Cup in San Francisco.
They say sending a few key staff is justified, but 11 staff and seven members of the media is more of a junket than a work trip.
Executive Director Jordan Williams says its would have contributed more to San Francisco's economic development than Auckland's.
He says they are filing an Official Information Request on the nature of the spending.
"We want to know precisely what they were doing over there. Were they sitting on boats watching the America's Cup, or were they actually working?
"That's the key question for ratepayers."

 

Open letter to Jacinda Ardern

Yesterday the Labour Party confirmed its proposal for a new Children's Ministry and Minister. The Taxpayers' Union emailed Jacinda Ardern, the party's Spokesperson for Children.

Dear Ms Ardern,
We understand from your public comments today that the Labour Party is proposing a new “Children’s Ministry” and “Children’s Minister” (refer to http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1312/S00106/report-slams-government-inaction-on-protecting-our-kids.htm).
The Taxpayers’ Union supports all evidence based measures to help Kiwi kids succeed. We are not certain what yet another ministry (and job title) will achieve in terms of results on the ground. As you are probably aware we welcomed your announcement last month to abolish the Families Commission quango, a move we hoped signalled Labour’s intention to divert resources into front line services, rather than bureaucrats writing reports such as the one titled “Eating Together at Mealtimes”.
As such, we seek the background material on the proposed Ministry/Minister that would answer the following questions:
  1. What are the cost projections to establish the Ministry?
  2. What is the projected per year baseline funding?
  3. Will the Ministry’s primary focus be policy advice or service delivery? If the latter, what responsibility and resources will be taken away from CYF, MSD or other ministries/departments? 
  4. In terms of the number of FTE employees, how large do you propose the Ministry to be?
  5. Can you point to any overseas models or research which would indicate how you propose the new Ministry will work, its service delivery, and outcomes?
  6. How would the Ministry differ from the existing Families Commission?
We propose to post this email on our website. If you have any objection, please let me know without delay.
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union Inc.  

Once we have a response, we'll post here.

In the mean time, we're planning our activities for election year. We're considering a 'cost calculator' service to track the promises from each party and check what politicians plan to do with taxpayers' money.  Do you think it's worth us doing? Give us your thoughts by commenting on our Facebook page.

Kaipara District Council’s wastewater project - an expensive audit failure?

The report of the Auditor-General’s inquiry into the EcoCare wastewater project was released on Tuesday. It revealed serious failures in the management of the project, and strongly criticises Audit NZ. Inaccurate record keeping, mismanagement of the project, lack of financial advice and expertise, and reliance on private partnerships saw a huge budget blowout, with costs exceeding over $63m. For example, the effluent disposal bill alone increased from $361,000 to $14m.

How did the Council pay for this budget blowout? By raising rates for Mangawhai residents. The annual cost to ratepayers was a consideration in assessing the affordability of the project. However, the summary of the report reveals that the Council in fact decided to “increase the number of estimated ratepayers that would be covered by the scheme and contribute to funding it”. This is a fundamental flaw, and the Auditor-General concluded that this decision was not based on an adequate account of predicted growth in the area. This, as well as the undisclosed liabilities are precisely the things Audit NZ should have picked up on.

Overall the report suggests Audit NZ was failing audit 101

The Auditor-General's office (which includes Audit NZ) is supposed to provide assurance that government departments are performing as they should. The report details that:

  • audit quality of the project was varied;
  • the quality of documentation for some audit files were inadequate, especially those explaining why judgments were reached;
  • there was a failure to reassess the project between 2006-2009 despite significant changes that could have been an audit risk; and
  • the auditor’s reliance on information from Kaipara District Council’s management (which, from our examples above, were also clearly inadequate).

Joel Cayford has written a blog post evaluating the report. He’s gone a step further than the Taxpayers’ Union, and believes that an unreserved apology does not cut it, concluding that the Auditor-General's 'head is on the block'. 

Many audit failures internationally have led to large payouts by audit companies and their insurers to shareholders. Here, the tab was left with Kaipara ratepayers. The report does not address what we think the issue is: redress for the Kaipara ratepayers who paid the bill.

State sector CEO pay

Pay top state bosses even more: report - DominionPost 30/11/2013

Jordan Williams, executive director of the Taxpayers' Union, said the report acknowledged the "tenuous" connection between performance and pay in the public sector, but overlooked difference with the private sector.

"Traditionally public sector employees have expected less pay in exchange for having better job security and it's disappointing that the report doesn't acknowledge that," he said.

Organisations in both the public and private sectors were now in a race to pay senior staff the most.

"Instead of asking 'how much do we need to pay to get this person', the question seems to be 'what's everyone else paying, let's go just above that average', and we have a race skywards."

Waste Watch: Transpower spend $1.2million on a cafe and reception

What's the difference between a 'cafe-style space' and a cafe?

Not a lot, but according to the government-owned monopoly Transpower, a $1.2million 'cafe-style space' is value for money unlike asking staff to visit the dozen cafes within a few hundred metres of its Wellington office building.

In 2012, the taxpayer owned company spent $1.2million refurbishing its reception and building "The Wire" a place where, according to Transpower CEO Patrick Strange, "we can engage and collaborate with each other, and with our guests."

Back in September, a Taxpayer's Union volunteer asked about the new cafe Transpower had built at 96 The Terrace, Wellington. It seems that calling it a "cafe" caused some offence. Transpower said (even bolding the text to emphasis the point):

The space on the ground level of Transpower House is not a café – it is a space for Transpower staff to meet internally and with our key stakeholders. 

We were told that the combined cost of the cafe space and adjacent reception area was $1.2million.

Unfortunately, Transpower would not initially tell us how long its lease for the building had remaining. After some haggling, we learned that the current lease expires in 2014.

Is $1.2million on a cafe and reception value for money?

Friday the last day to get entries in for Auckland rates competition

Entries close tomorrow for our competition for the householder who can provide evidence of the highest percentage increase in Auckland Council rates and user-charges.  The prize is a lawnmower - just perfect for mowing those berms.

At the same time the Auckland Council is reducing services, a quick flick through the 50 or so entries we've have in so far, show many rates and user charge increases well over the 10% "cap".

The terms and conditions are available here.

Please scan and email your entries to [email protected] as any sent by post will no longer arrive in time.

Update: Auckland Council finally responds to allegations of lying about Mayoral trip to China

Well it's taken a few weeks, but Auckland Council has finally responded to the Taxpayers' Union 'please explain' letter regarding a reported instruction by the Mayor's Chief of Staff, Phil Wilson, to refer all enquires about a secret January 2013 Mayoral trip to China to his office, and appears to be a misleading response to our enquiry about the trip under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987.

To recap, after a tip-off that there was inappropriate expenditure on a mayoral trip to China in early 2013, we asked the Council for the identify of the person who we were informed was responsible for the spending.  It is our practise to use official information channels and verify any information we receive via our tip-line (or otherwise). We were told that the last trip was in 2012. April 2012.

No mention was made of the early 2013 trip.

As has been widely reported, we now know that the January 2013 did indeed happen.

A few weeks ago we spoke to an official at the Auckland Council who told us that  the Council had misled us and implied that she was instructed that all requests from the Taxpayers’ Union relating to the January 2013 China trip, be directed to Mr Wilson.

But instead of explaining the inconsistency, Mr Wilson has today emailed a veiled threat that our statements are "being monitored and reviewed through legal channels".

We've copied the emails into the post. Click read more to view them.

Taxpayers' Union on MP's pay rise

AUDIO: Politicians "don't deserve" payrise RadioLIVE - 22/11/2013

Politicians' pay rises and more on way DominionPost - 22/11/2013

Jordan Williams, executive director of the Taxpayers' Union, said MPs were getting a "Christmas bonus" at a time when the Government was borrowing millions of dollars a day to cover its spending.

He said Errington's comments about the gap to executive pay were "deeply concerning" and seemed to overlook the nature of ministerial roles.

"By pegging MPs' remuneration to the private sector, you're effectively saying they're in a job. Well, for MPs, it's not a job, you're not even a bureaucrat.

"It is public service and the Remuneration Authority seems to have forgotten that," he said.

MPs don't deserve pay rise - Taxpayers' Union Yahoo News - 22/11/2013

Community service key to MPs' happiness Waikato Times - 22/11/2013

Living Wage - higher costs, less diversity, job losses?

We've been looking into the claims by Auckland Council politicians relating to promises of a 'living wage' for Auckland Council employees.

An Auckland Council internal report obtained by the Taxpayers’ Union raises questions about the potential for job losses and casts the $3.75m price-tag for the policy into doubt. 

The Council’s report explains that the living wage is ‘not an effective, general tool for alleviating poverty’ and that ‘large proportions of minimum wage workers do not live in poor households.’

When you put aside the political rhetoric, the economic impact of the living wage policy will be disastrous for low-skilled Council workers, diversity and ratepayers according the Council’s own analysis.

If the Council’s aim is to reduce poverty, the report suggests that living wages for Council employees is not the way to do it.  According to the report, workers aged 15 - 24, women and ethnic minorities are over-represented in the category of people not earning more than $18.40 per hour. Artificially inflating Council wages may see less of these groups gaining future employment with the Council as competition for these positions increase.

In addition to increased competition for Council positions, the report indicates the potential for job losses and shows that workers may see overtime slashed.

The living wage policy will not only burden Aucklanders with higher rates, it also threatens Council workers with the prospect of job losses.  The true cost of the living wage policy may be much higher than the $3.75m quoted in the media.  For example, the Council’s analysis only considers workers within a 10% wage differential.  It has not factored in the potential for a domino effect of wage increases emanating from the introduction of the living wage.

We've uploaded the full report here.

Len Brown's Hong Kong trip confirmed

Len Brown's Hong Kong trip confirmed New Zealand Herald - 12/11/2013

The Taxpayers' Union was also upset about the release of details about Mr Brown's trip to Hong Kong.

Union executive director Jordan Williams said it appeared from LGOIMA requests to the council on the matter that council officers "deliberately misled'' about the existence of the trip to avoid scrutiny.

"In addition, Auckland Council staff have apparently been instructed not to speak about the particular trip and to refer all inquiries to the mayor's office,'' he said.

Politicians in the gun over taxpayer funded subsidies

ONE News (click the picture for video on demand)

Calls for MPs to declare property 'perk' One News - 11/11/2013

MPs' property loophole 'stings taxpayers' New Zealand Herald - 11/11/2013

The newly formed Taxpayers' Union, set up to "give Kiwi taxpayers a strong voice in the corridors of power", said it was shocked that the MPs were told to remove the relevant properties from their respective declaration of pecuniary interests.

Executive director Jordan Williams said the Registrar of Pecuniary Interests, which was Dame Margaret Bazley at the time, should ensure the public is fully informed.

"We are shocked that she has advised Ministers to withhold information, contrary to the purpose of the register.

"Today's revelations show that the MPs' Register of Pecuniary Interests is unfit for purpose and needs to be amended. These entitlements are stinging taxpayers in the pocket. There is no excuse for not ensuring that there is full transparency."

 

Secret parliamentary mortgage payments an entitlement too far

The Taxpayers’ Union has today welcomed the New Zealand Herald’s investigation revealing six MPs claiming $78,000 per year in taxpayer-funded subsidies for their investment properties.

The Taxpayers' Union believes that taxpayers are entitled to know what personal benefits and remuneration MPs receive.

The Herald reports that Simon Bridges was ‘given clear advice’ from Dame Margaret Bazley to take out the relevant properties from his declaration of pecuniary interests. We think that Dame Margaret should be doing everything she can to ensure the public is fully informed.  We are shocked that she has advised Ministers to withhold information, contrary to the purpose of the register.

Today’s revelations show that the MPs’ Register of Pecuniary Interests is unfit for purpose and needs to be amended.  These entitlements are stinging taxpayers in the pocket. There is no excuse for not ensuring that there is full transparency so that Kiwis can judge for themselves whether MPs entitlements are fair.

Taxpayers' Union offers prize to Aucklander with largest percentage rates increase

The Taxpayers’ Union this afternoon announced that it is offering a lawn mower to the householder who can provide evidence of the highest Auckland Council percentage increase in rates and user-charges.

We understand that some Auckland residents have suffered cumulative rate increases of over 30 per cent in the last few years.  At the same time the Auckland Council is reducing services such as berm mowing.

We are worried that while Len Brown is hiding behind the ‘average’ figure of 2.5 per cent, this is merely an attempt to disguise just how much extra some Auckland households are paying.  It ignores, for example, increased user charges.

The proposed rate increase is almost double the rate of inflation.  Aucklanders should be expecting more, not less, services from their Council.

Our press release is available here.  

COMPETITION TERMS: 

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union Incorporated seeks rates and user-charge invoices for Council services showing the total uncapped percentage increase in rates and user-charges since the 2011/2012 baseline.  The resident who provides the largest percentage increase for the same property, as determined by the Taxpayers’ Union, will win.

Documentation must be sent to the Taxpayers’ Union, PO Box 10518, The Terrace, Wellington.  To be eligible, entries must be received before 5pm Friday 29 November 2013.

Entrants are only eligible to win the prize if they include their contact email and phone number on the documentation entered, are willing to certify the accuracy of the documentation provided and are willing to have their name publicly disclosed.

Please contact the Taxpayers’ Union (via [email protected]) if you require further information.

The winner will receive a CraftMaster Petrol Lawnmower model KM375PM, or similar.

The Taxpayers’ Union decision on entitlement to the prize is final.

UPDATE: Please scan and email your entries to [email protected] as any sent by post will no longer arrive in time.

Nearly $3m for NZTA to treat drivers like children

The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that the New Zealand Transport Authority's 'Drive Social' campaign cost taxpayers $1,492,395 on advertising, $985,019 on communications and advertising consultancy fees and $301,872 in other related costs.  This website alone cost $186,142.

The 'Drive Social' campaign was organised by NZTA to educate road-users that they “share the road with other drivers” and instructs them to “be considerate” (we're not making this up!).

We think that the funds for these sort of self-evident campaigns would be better spent on improving roads or preventing drink driving.  The Taxpayers’ Union asked the NZTA to provide cost-benefit analysis of the campaign. Instead, it could only provide us the costs to the taxpayer and ‘media monitoring’ reports.

We can all support advertising efforts to reduce the road toll, but here is an agency spending nearly three million dollars to tell drivers that there are other drivers on the road.  It’s bureaucrats spending our money to treat us like children.

Complete with a condescending tone and nursery rhyme-like music the ‘Drive Social’ website would insult the intelligence of most drivers.  Judge for yourself at www.drivesocial.co.nz.

Here is an example of one of the campaign billboards:

Drive social billboard

The Nation on the Taxpayers' Union

Union not a party in the making The Nation - 2/11/2013

Union not a party in the making The National Business Review - 2/11/2013

The country’s newest union will never become a political party, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union co-founder.

Jordan Williams, who co-founded the union with Kiwiblog’s David Farrar, said it was a bottom line of his involvement that the union wouldn’t become a political party - and if it ever became one, he would leave.

 

Council website 'astronomical' cost

The Marlborough Express covers the figures on website spending released by the Taxpayers' Union
showing that Marlborough District Council spend three times as much as Nelson / Tasman / West Coast combined.

Council website 'astronomical' cost 'Marlborough Express - 31/10/2013

Council website 'astronomical' cost

The Marlborough District Council has spent more than $400,000 on website redevelopment over the past two years, nearly three times as much as Nelson, Tasman and the West Coast put together.
Figures released by the Taxpayers' Union show that only Auckland Council has spent more than Marlborough on website upgrades since July 2011.
Councils of a similar size to Marlborough, like Kapiti Coast, Upper Hutt and Wanganui, have all spent less than $15,000.
In comparison, Dunedin City Council spent only $35,520 over the same time period.
Wellington City, which redeveloped its award winning website earlier in the year, spent almost $100,000 less than Marlborough.
Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams said the astronomical amount was potentially a huge waste of ratepayer money.
''Even if we assume that half of Marlborough's residents have actually visited the site, it would probably have been cheaper for the council to pay for a taxi for them to visit the office.''
Council acting chief executive Mark Wheeler defended the spend, saying figures released by the union were not comparing apples with apples.
The council had undertaken a major upgrade, involving the design and development of three separate websites, in the last two years, while Dunedin, for example, might not have carried out any, Mr Wheeler said.
''Maybe they will do it next year, or did it five years ago,'' he said.
''You cannot compare how much has been spent over two years and say one is more efficient than the other.''
The figures did not take into consideration the services being provided on the websites, Mr Wheeler said.
The total cost of $410,550 covered the redesign of the council's website and the electronic access to property files, the development of an on-line payment and application system, the redesign of the separate Marlborough District Libraries website, which serves Blenheim and Picton, and the establishment of a Marlborough Youth website, he said.
Providing on-line access to thousands of property, building and resource consent files held by council was a major project and involved much more than a few tweaks to the existing website.
''The work is an important part of the council strategy to improve on-line customer service and, in fact, the on-line file access has been a first for local government in New Zealand.''
Other councils would likely have to follow Marlborough's lead over the coming years, he said.
Mr Williams said the amount spent by Marlborough District Council on its three websites was still excessive.
''Even if we did divide the amount by a third, the amount spent by Marlborough District Council is still astronomical compared to other councils of equivalent size,'' he said.
The Taxpayers' Union website cost $7000 to develop, Mr Williams said.
''We cannot figure out how they spent so much, even on three websites,'' he said.
''It's a nice website but it's not space age.''

The Herald: 12 questions with David Farrar

Twelve Questions: David Farrar The New Zealand Herald - 31/10/2013

3. And now you've set up the NZ Taxpayers Union. What's a right-wing political blogger doing with a union?

It's a lobby group representing the views of the taxpayer and targeting government waste. I've never been anti union - I've signed people up to unions in the past and I think they are important when there is a big power imbalance and workers are vulnerable. I think Unite has been pretty effective in some of the stuff they've done. This is something I've been working on for several years and I'll give you an example of the kind of thing we're targeting - the $30 million subsidy to Rio Tinto. I can't imagine we'd be saying that was great. Or the $3 million the Government spent on a road safety campaign telling us to be nice to our fellow drivers. No, it's not the new Act Party. And it's not anti left or right. I suspect we will somewhat annoy whoever is in government at the time.

Marlborough City Council website spending

Council website 'astronomical' cost The Marlborough Express - 31/10/2013

The Marlborough District Council has spent more than $400,000 on website redevelopment over the past two years, nearly three times as much as Nelson, Tasman and the West Coast put together.

Figures released by the Taxpayers' Union show that only Auckland Council has spent more than Marlborough on website upgrades since July 2011.

Councils of a similar size to Marlborough, like Kapiti Coast, Upper Hutt and Wanganui, have all spent less than $15,000.

In comparison, Dunedin City Council spent only $35,520 over the same time period.

Wellington City, which redeveloped its award winning website earlier in the year, spent almost $100,000 less than Marlborough.

Tax Payers Union eyes up first target Newstalk ZB - 30/10/2013

The newly established New Zealand Tax Payers Union has already eyed up it's first target - the Marlborough District Council.

It says since July 2011, the council has spent $410,550 on its website design and development.

In comparison, Dunedin City Council is said to have spent only $35,200 on its website.

Tax Payers Union co-founder Jordan Williams says the Marlborough Council's spent an exuberant amount of money.

"If, let's say, half the population of that district has actually been to the website, we estimate it would have actually been cheaper to have brought them all a taxi chit to physically go into the council."

Mr Williams says the union will be putting the microscope on spending across the political spectrum.

"We're not a political party and the Taxpayers Union will never become one. The success depends on us being a grassroots organisation for people that think there is too much waste and extravagance in Government."

Taxpayers’ Union welcomes Labour Party pledge

The Taxpayers’ Union has welcomed Labour MP Jacinda Ardern’s announcement that if elected, Labour will scrap the Families Commission quango.

Government funding for an organisation churning out reports such as ‘Eating Together at Mealtimes’, is better spent on the frontline. We support Labour’s stance.

The Families Commission was only ever a result of an election deal with a minor party. We are glad Labour realise the need for money to be spent where it will be most effective for taxpayers.

The Families Commission’s ‘Eating Together at Mealtimes’ report is available

at http://www.familiescommission.org.nz/publications/research-reports/eating-together-at-mealtimes

Taxi chits probably cheaper than visiting Marlborough Council website

Since July 2011, the Marlborough District Council has paid $410,550 for website design maintenance and development costs.  In comparison Dunedin City Council spent only $35,520 over the same time period.

“The only council that spent more on web design than Marlborough was Auckland Council” says Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union. 

“Even if we assume that half of Marlborough’s residents have actually visited the site, it would probably have been cheaper for the Council to pay for a taxi for them to visit the office.  It is potentially a huge waste of ratepayer money.”

Wellington City, which redeveloped its award winning website earlier in the year spent almost one hundred thousand dollars less than Marlborough.

Spending on website design maintenance and development costs since July 2011.

Click 'read more' for raw data.

What type of wasteful spending will we target?

1. Inappropriate Spending

This may be the CEO spending up large at Hooters, personal use of taxpayer or ratepayer money, and other spending which is simply not appropriate for a taxpayer funded organisation.

2. Excessive Spending

This is where the spending is on something appropriate such as a Council website, but the amount spent is excessive for the value gained. Just because something is worthwhile, doesn't mean that there should be no reasonable budget for it. For example, spending $300,000 on a website for a district of less than 50,000 residents.

3. Misdirected Spending

This is spending where the policy is misdirected and the spending is inefficient. An example from across the Tasman is Tony Abbott's paid parental leave scheme which rather than cap the subsidy at a level to target low and middle income parents, will provide the greatest subsidies (up to $2,900 a week) to the richest parents - who least need it. 

A local example would be the Supergold transport subsidy which has been a financial windfall for transport operators, or interest free-student loans. If the desire is to help low income pensioners with transport costs or to make tertiary education more affordable, there are alternative policies which would achieve these outcomes more efficiently.

Launch of the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union

Though we are new, we already know of examples where bureaucrats are not respecting the hard earned income of the New Zealanders who pay for their spending decisions through taxes.  Over the coming weeks we will be exposing some of those examples.

To stay up to date by following us on twitter or liking us on Facebook.

We are encouraging insiders to help.  Maybe you're a respected official, frustrated with waste you see in a department.  If so, please visit our tip line page - we guarantee the confidentiality of all out tip line sources.

A copy of our press release is available here.  You can find out more about on the what we stand for and a Q&A pages available at www.taxpayers.org.nz.

Yours faithfully,

The members of the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union


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