The Auditor-General’s report catalogues a dirty deal hatched between Key’s office and SkyCity execs to give SkyCity more pokies ‘in return for’ a convention centre. It shows the bidding process was a farce and reveals that the whole ‘trade-off’ is a con. SkyCity wants to do the convention centre anyway but it wants to look like it’s giving something to get more pokies.
The Auditor-General concludes that the final decision to choose SkyCity’s bid is sound when weighed against the other bids, but it could hardly be any other way. None of the other bidders had the inside running with all the government assistance they needed. Here’s some of the quotes:
“Ministry officials were aware that SkyCity had expressed an interest in extending its existing convention centre across Federal Street or developing a new centre on land it owned in Hobson Street. This awareness arose from communications between Auckland-based Ministry offi cials and SkyCity during April and May 2009.”
“The Ministry issued the EOI document, Request for Expressions of Interest for growing New Zealand’s share of the International Business Events Market and Strengthening the National Network of Convention Venues, on 19 May 2010 [ie. a year after SkyCity started talking to the government about building a convention centre]”
“from the start of the evaluation process, the contact with one proposer was of a wholly different nature from the contact with others”
“we were surprised to find that there was no documented analysis or advice on the process that needed to be followed from a procurement perspective, or any systematic consideration of the relevant principles and obligations that should guide the steps taken”
“In our view, the steps that were taken were not consistent with good practice principles of transparency and fairness”
“we found a range of deficiencies in the advice that the Ministry provided and the steps that officials and Ministers took”
It’s clear that the who process was a farce. The convention centre, more pokies idea came from SkyCity to the government, which adopted it enthusitatically, put on the charade of pretending it was the one looking for people to build a convention centre, went through a fake bidding process.
The Nats then entered into talks with SkyCity as if SkyCity is giving the government something it wants (a convention centre) in return for something SkyCity wants (more pokies), when both are something that SkyCity wants. National and SkyCity are merely pretending that SkyCity is giving us something in return for more pokies.
If SkyCity wants a convention centre, they should just build it but they’re trying to get two bites of the apple by framing it as a gift to the nation in return for pokies, and National’s helping them.
But there’s a deeper issue.
How can it be that a convention centre is a cornerstone of this government’s economic agenda? It’s a fucken convention centre. There’s already a surplus of the bloody things because so many other cities and governments have been conned into subsidising them and the international convention market is shrinking, not growing. Even if covention centres were good investments, it’s incredibly small beer for National to be investing so much money and political capital in it.
There’s something very sick at the heart of National’s agenda when giving SkyCity a convention centre and more pokies is one of their big ideas.