Before the Auditor General’s report on Sky City was even released, Key was trying to spin it as a “vindication” of his involvement. (The Greens are calling for Key to be censured for this breach of confidentiality.) Key was trying to get his spin in early because, of course, the report is not a “vindication” at all. John Armstrong (of all people) called Key out in no uncertain terms:
Sky City report ‘deeply disturbing’
Verging on banana republic kind of stuff without the bananas – that is the only conclusion to draw from the deeply disturbing report into the shonkiness surrounding the Government’s selection of SkyCity as the preferred builder and operator of a national convention centre.
The Prime Minister’s attempt to downplay Deputy Auditor-General Phillippa Smith’s findings in advance of their release yesterday by saying he had not lost any sleep from reading draft copies may turn out to be a costly political miscalculation.
John Key may have escaped personal blame for the serious flaws in the old Ministry of Economic Development’s handling of the convention centre project but the report is far worse than he had been leading people to believe.
He is taking refuge in the report’s assurances that no evidence could be found to suggest “inappropriate considerations”, such as connections between political and business leaders, were behind the final decision for the Government to negotiate with SkyCity as the preferred bidder. In other words, no corruption. Or at least none that could be found.
An interesting distinction for Armstrong to make.
Smith’s report, however, does not mince words when it comes to slamming the whole selection process from the seeking of expressions of interest to their evaluation as being neither transparent nor even-handed, with four other interested parties seeking the nod to build the convention centre being kept in the dark for months while the Government got cosy with SkyCity. Things got so bad that some officials expressed concern to superiors that proper procedures were not being followed. …
Key may not be losing much sleep. But this report is no comforting, soft bed of hay. It is a bed of nails.
And now today The Herald points out that Key’s Tourism Ministry ignored Treasury advice on how to proceed:
Treasury’s SkyCity advice ignored
Officials in one of Prime Minister John Key’s departments disregarded Treasury advice to seek guidance in how to conduct SkyCity talks with honesty and integrity.
… the Tourism Ministry, for which Mr Key has responsibility, was told by Treasury in November 2009 to seek advice from the Auditor-General “to determine the probity” of its discussions with the casino company. “We have no record of any contact with ministry officials on this topic at this time,” Deputy Auditor-General Phillipa Smith said in her report.
Why would Key’s Ministry be keen to ignore advice on how to proceed with “honesty and integrity”?
The process was so obviously flawed and unfair that (from the same article) one of the competing bidders in the process is talking about seeking a refund of its costs “wasted on a bid that was never seriously considered”. I wouldn’t be surprised if all competing bidders were not making such claims soon. Why wouldn’t they?
It looks like the Sky City fiasco is far from over for Key. As David Shearer put it “He was not vindicated, he was implicated”…