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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


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