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Bad taste of Sky City lingers

Written By: - Date published: 9:09 am, February 26th, 2013 - 8 comments
Categories: accountability, corruption, john key - Tags: , , ,

The Auditor General’s report on Key’s dodgy dealings with Sky City provoked a real storm of commentary. I covered John Armstrong, but at the time I missed this strong piece by Vernon Small:

SkyCity stench demands restart

No corruption but a corrupted process.

And because in politics process can never really be separated from product, the Government ought to put its talks with SkyCity on hold pending a more open tendering process. That’s the only way to restore public confidence in the process and blow away the fetid smell that now hangs around the plans for a convention centre-for-pokies deal.

Deputy auditor-general Phillippa Smith has delivered a deeply-troubling report on negotiations between the government and SkyCity.

“Corrupted process”. “Stench”. You don’t usually see Small so worked up.

Slipping information about the Government’s plans to one bidder, giving it more time and indulging in talks about how proposals can be modified, while leaving other potential bidders in the dark, has no place in the public sector. …

And all that before the Government faces its biggest test of the whole deal – justifying changing the rules to create an uneven playing field for (and between) gambling interests, and exacerbating a social bad by boosting the number of pokie machines in Auckland.

It’s not just Armstrong and Small – the reaction to the AG’s report is lingering in the headlines much longer than Key would like. Here’s Bryce Edwards in his political round-up yesterday summarised:

Commentators are refusing to let the SkyCity scandal lie, with economist Rod Oram now labelling the Auditor-General’s report a ‘whitewash’ – see: No way to run a country. John Armstrong is also harshly critical of the Government’s response to the Auditor-General’s report – see: Nats battle hard to tame report. And Tim Watkin says that it all reflects a modern modus operandi in which only results matter, not process – see: Pokies & smokies: When the means and ends don’t meet

Let’s take a look at the Rod Oram piece:

No way to run a country

Whitewash is the only word to describe the deputy auditor-general’s report on the Government’s relationship with SkyCity.

The report dumps all the blame on civil servants. But its description of events makes it very clear the prime minister, his office, his Tourism Ministry, and the Ministry of Economic Development spent a year trying to stitch up a convention centre deal with SkyCity before any other interested party got a glance in.

By doing so, John Key and his officials subverted the normal processes required for government procurement. These are designed to ensure solutions are canvassed widely and the best option chosen. As a result we’ll get the convention centre SkyCity wants to build on terms highly favourable to it, which may not be the convention centre New Zealand needs. Here’s how the prime minister and his colleagues abused the system, according to the chronology of actions described in the deputy auditor-general’s report. …

Read on for the chronology.

This very sweet deal sends a very clear message: If you want to build a convention centre, school, road, hospital, prison or any other form of infrastructure, don’t bother with the appropriate processes. Do an end-run around the competition – deal directly with the prime minister. This is no way to run any country.

I don’t think I have anything to add.

8 comments on “Bad taste of Sky City lingers”

  1. ghostwhowalksnz 1

    Its a mirror of the stitchup deal Key had to get the nomination for his electorate.

    Do you expect him to behave any differently once he got the levers of power

  2. aerobubble 2

    People work hard to get rid of smoking, now Government picks the winner who will sell cigarettes cheap (SkyCity run all sort of promotions no doubt), sorry but on whose planet are these people living. Its obvious, scarcity pushes up demand, government should not then seize on the scarcity created by community groups, mayors, even pubs giving in to pressure, and handing that to a private business. Its unethical, its immoral, it says don’t do community work as government will just take
    your hard unpaid achievements and sell you out (on a cabbage boat).

    The idea that because the process was corrupted (true) that we should overlook the corrupt idea of pokies using to sweeten the deal is pure, well, corruption. Its almost as if Key planned to sow a
    contentious process to misdirect from the unsaleable sweeten.

  3. DH 3

    One of the (unwritten) messages we’ve been sent here is just how useless our media have become. They’re really the only group who can expose corruption in NZ and this shows how they let it all fly under the radar without even a whimper. Audit office certainly had more authority than journalists, and had access to more information, but the media still should have been asking hard questions and putting the deal under the microscope long before the audit office got involved. We’ve got the Greens to thank for exposing this, media have only leapt on the bandwagon.

  4. vto 4

    It is the way of Key.

    Every man for himself.

  5. chris73 acualy is Dolan 5

    Did you ask Sir Peter Jackson permission to use his property? 😉

  6. tracey 6

    And those who say that its one person one vote are wilfully ignorant of the power of lobbying and cocktail parties.

    • tc 6.1

      Some don’t even need to do that tracey, Fed farmers, Private schools, Foreign investors in public money spinners etc you just have to be in the club.

  7. tc 7

    It’s what you’ll never see an inquiry on that’s is the really damaging material, SCF bailout, GCSB, Warners subsidy, UFB etc etc etc

    You can divide them into 2 categories, giving away public money and givng up or away soverign rights, some cover both.

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