Auditor-General shoots down Nats’ Brown smears

Written By: - Date published: 10:49 am, June 25th, 2010 - 51 comments
Categories: accountability, auckland supercity, local body elections - Tags: ,

Behind in the polls and losing the face to face debates, National’s handpicked man for Auckland Supermayor, John Banks, is in deep trouble and unable to match Len Brown. So in a desperate attempt to stop bleeding votes, they did the political equivalent of BP’s ‘junk shot’ in the Gulf oil spill. They got together whatever dirt they could and threw it all at Brown.

Brown asked the Auditor-General to look into his credit card records to officially declare whether he had purposely abused his card or clear his name. Now, the Auditor-General has found there is nothing to warrant investigation saying:

Thank you for your letter of 22 June which was e-mailed to me this morning.

We have been aware from media reports that you intended to ask the Auditor-General to look at your use of a Council purchasing card for sensitive expenditure. We have given considerable thought to the appropriate response to that request, should it eventuate. My decision is to decline your request.

Since your statement last week, the Council’s Audit Committee has asked our appointed auditor to carry out additional work on the Council’s systems and processes for sensitive expenditure during the course of ongoing normal audit work. The additional sampling, testing, and reporting by our appointed auditor will not be confined to transactions on credit or purchasing cards, or to the spending of any particular individual. I note too that the auditor has already commented on shortcomings of these systems and processes.

We understand that the Committee has also asked the Council’s chief financial officer to review certain aspects of the Council’s expenditure policies and processes to ensure that they are operating appropriately and will continue to do so.

In addition, the details of the purchasing card transactions are in the public arena and you have publicly acknowledged shortcomings in your personal use and administration of the purchasing card.

In reaching my decision, I have considered the effect of the additional annual audit work, alongside the previous work that has been carried out by our appointed auditor and the Council’s internal audit staff, the review of expenditure policies and processes, and the public disclosure of Council spending that has already taken place. It is also relevant that the Council will shortly cease to exist as a separate organisation.

I consider that, in all these circumstances, the Council’s response is appropriate and there is no need for further involvement of the Auditor-General.

I doubt we’ll be waiting long until the next smear will be from the Nats, because they sure as hell don’t have any other shot at winning.

51 comments on “Auditor-General shoots down Nats’ Brown smears”

  1. lprent 1

    Hah – that is funny… What is that stupid phrase beloved by wingnuts…

    Move along – nothing to see here..

    Now someone authoritative has said it, we can expect the usual wingnut response. A descent into conspiracy theories.

    (I block-quoted the text of the letter to make it easier to read where it started and ended.)

  2. Mark M 2

    Its called buck passing.
    The AG thinks it is the responsibility of the council to investigate and ensure their rules are followed.
    You clearly think it is an evil smear to hold someone to rules , yet this site complains bitterly when a Nat MP dosent declare a directorship .
    Not declaring a directorship dosent cost the taxpayer , but it is against the rules .
    Brown has clearly broken the rules and stolen money from the Manakau ratepayer.

    The fact he paid it back is like someone breaking in to your house , stealing your stereo , returning it a year later and expecting to avoid theft charges.

    • Pascal's bookie 2.1

      Lay a complaint with the cops then Mark.

    • Lew 2.2

      Can’t have it both ways. If the A-G had seen fit to investigate y’all would be crowing that, on account of the smoke, there must be fire. if the A-G had found something in the investigation, y’all would be claiming Brown’s scalp.

      This result is a ‘not even worth my time’. Better than an exoneration. And cheaper, too. Aren’t you happy that the A-G is being so frugal with your money?

      No? How irony.


    • Roger 2.3

      “Not declaring a directorship doesn’t cost the taxpayer , but it is against the rules.”

      Actually this has he potential to cost the taxpayer a huge amount of money through conflict of interest. The theft here would be much greater than the amount involved in the credit card smear, would be harder to prove, and could have damaging consequences outside of the money involved as well.

  3. ianmac 3

    I live nowhere near Auckland but despair at the smear. (That rhymes.) The sad thing is that rather than show accountibility, the after-taste is that NZ politics is smelly. Baby with bath water sort of thing. Loss of trust. Sad.

  4. PK 4

    ***They got together whatever dirt they could and threw it all at Brown.***

    His style of slapping his face while apologising was pretty unusual. Why isn’t Bob Harvey running?

  5. Craig Glen Eden 5

    While you are at the police station file a complaint about the money Brownlee, Heatly and Grosser has stolen will you Mark M. Given you are so concerned about double standards that would be the only right thing to do aye. Pigs might fly aye Mark m ?

  6. WOOF 6

    Looks like they were barking up the wrong tree 🙂

  7. sean14 7

    “you have publicly acknowledged shortcomings in your personal use and administration of the purchasing card.”

    What’s the smear? Brown misused his credit card, as did several MPs from both National and Labour.

    • The problem is that the media have made it appear like a LP scandal only.
      The Nats have been guilty of a number of dubious acts yet hardly any publicity has been given to their dirty actions. Key’s Trust , Nick Smith’s slander case , the hidden directorships ect. just imagine how often the ugly bully actions of Brownlee would have been mentioned if it was a Labour Minister,oh dear ! Granny Herald would refer to it when ever it could. They still mention “Paintergate ! yet never mention that the painting in question made a lot of money for child cancer fund. Im sick to death of the way Labour people are targeted by the well organized Political Right it’s time the Left stopped being decent and opened the flood gates on this sleazy lot.Start on their fund gathering and then expose their cover up of their breaking electoral laws and their refusal to pay GST at the last election. Lets start being realistic and expose these barstards for what they are ,money grabbers who have no intention of working to help the underprivileged or in making Aotearoa a social democracy , They are there to improve the lot of the wealthy nothing else.

  8. American Gardener 8

    Possibly both things can be true at the same time: it is a smear campaign and Len Brown has crossed the line with his credit card use. If it is a smear campaign aimed at reducing Len Browns polling it doesn’t change his acts or the poor way he has handled the allegations.

    • Lew 8.1

      I think it’s very clear that it is both. But it seems that one allegation has rather more veracity than the other, since one appears to have been grossly exaggerated, and the other doesn’t.


  9. I personally more pissed that Bill-DoubleDipton-English blatantly rorted the taxpayer for thousands of dollars and gets away scott free.
    And i want that chump from Nelson, Nick Smith? to return the $200.000 dollars the taxpayer generously donated for opening his big mouth and getting sued for the effort.

  10. tsmithfield 10

    No way could that statement from the AG be seen as a vindication. In fact, it raises more questions than it answers. I’m sure Brown would have preferred that the AG have a look at the expenditure. As it is now, the AG points out that there is acknowledged offending and has not ruled out the possibility that there might be other offending that has not been acknowledged.

    • ianmac 10.1

      This time your logic disappoints ts.

      • tsmithfield 10.1.1

        How so ianmac?

        1. Quote from the AG: “you have publicly acknowledged shortcomings in your personal use and administration of the purchasing card.’

        2. Where does the AG specifically rule out other misdemeanors with the credit card?

        Case made, I think.

        • Pascal's bookie

          He didn’t rule out islamofascism either. Or murder most foul. Clearly bad news for Brown.

          Instead he just said it wasn’t worth wasting the AG office’s time with this, ever so serious, matter.

          • tsmithfield

            The point is he could have ruled out other mis-spending had he bothered to do an audit. The fact that, as the AG says, Brown has admitted some mis-spending, it follows that unless all the spending is investigated there is the possibility of other mis-spending that can’t obviously be ruled out without an audit.

            I don’t see anywhere in the statement any reason that Brown should be over the moon about this. It is in no way a declaration of innocence or the like.

            The reason the AG considered it wasn’t worth wasting his time over it was that there are already other processes under way likely to pick up mis-spending and that the general thrust of the information is in the public eye anyway. This says nothing about the relative seriousness of the offending.

            • Lew

              But it does say that the A-G is confident that any such offending will be discovered by the council’s own processes, rendering her own investigation redundant.


              • tsmithfield

                Yep. Just what I said if you read my last paragraph. But the AG is not saying that the offending is trivial or inconsequential though.

                • Lew

                  The point is that there’s no special, serious or urgent wrongdoing of the sort which warrants a special investigation. The allegation against Brown has been that there is. Square that circle for me.


                  • tsmithfield

                    I guess theres no evidence of fraud or the like, if thats what you mean by serious. However, that says nothing about other issues that arise such as ability to manage his own affairs (yet alone the council ones), moral hazards (setting a bad example) and the like. After all, in some employment situations this sort of behaviour would have resulted in a sacking.

                    • Lew

                      Indeed. These are bad, and I’m all for Brown (and anyone else) being held fully to account by the Powers That Be (internal audit and censure processes; the media; ultimately the electorate) for them.

                      But these aren’t the alleged misdeeds which were on the table. They formed a lower bound for a whole range of speculative attacks against Brown which have been proven without foundation. So the shift from “he’s a corrupt crooked trougher and he’s got to go” to “issues around the ability to manage his own affairs and setting a bad example” is a massive and very rapid retreat.

                      Classic smear politics: trying to obscure the fact that only a tiny fraction of the wrongdoing initially alleged was demonstrated to have any foundation.

                      Don’t get me wrong: it’s a fair enough tactic. Just don’t get arsey when it’s called out for what it is.


                    • tsmithfield

                      In nothing I’ve said above have I made any claims that the offending was at any particular level of seriousness. I was just pointing out what the AG was actually saying, which could not be read as a vindication.

                      I don’t live in Auckland, so I’m not particularly interested in Auckland politics, so I’ve got no particular axe to grind against Brown.

                    • Lew

                      And here we have the “well, it’s not my argument that’s crap” disclaimer. Nice.

                      The comment wasn’t a criticism against you, TS. I don’t know what you have or haven’t alleged. The point was about the wider attacks against Brown by the usual suspects.


              • davidg

                Oh do stop being willfully obtuse. The AG does not clear Brown or ‘shoot down’ alleged smears of Brown. The AG just says he’s not interested in investigating as the current process that may or may not end in court seems to be working fine.

                To attack Mr Smithfield for explaining this is pathetic.

        • felix

          Verging on a pig-fucker there tk.

          (cue mock offense and willful ignorance)

  11. Buster 11

    The NBR is carrying a story that confirms John Banks’ negative campaign is behind the desperate attempt to take down Len Brown.

    It states “Auckland politics has descended into dirty tricks with an attempt to smear Manukau mayor Len Brown… An attempt was made to drag members of Len Brown’s extended family into his credit card spending saga.’

    It goes on to say someone linked with John Banks tried to peddle that the dinner in support of a local singer, was in fact a family affair to celebrate the birth of a grandchild, and that those at the table included “Chief Employment Judge Graeme Colgan and his son Tim, said to me married to Len Brown’s daughter from an earlier marriage, who had recently given birth.’

    Brown confirmed he doesn’t have a daughter from his first marriage and the Colgans were not present at the dinner. Justice Colgan also confirmed this.

    I wonder if Banks will reveal who the dirty smear-merchant is, fire them, and apologise to Brown for trying to drag his family into the campaign. I think this deserves a wider audience.

    • I dreamed a dream 11.1

      It looks like not all right-wing media loves Banksie, huh? Hopefully, this story gets wider coverage.

    • Mako 11.2

      Interesting NBR story. Slater has made similar accusations on his blog. At a rough count, he’s posted 26 times on this issue since 6 June (a feat that would be vaguely impressive were it not for the fact that, even with all the spare time that a taxpayer-funded life of leisure gives him, his stories are just repetitive, vindictive, childish, poorly-written paranoid rants). Every time a smear gets proven wrong, the focus shifts. Fraudulent, falsified receipts? Nah. Len’s birthday party? Nah. Wetting the baby’s head, with a member of the judiciary in attendance? Nah. So now it’s a desperate spin about how the Auditor-General told “Looney Len” to “bugger off”‘. Seriously, why doesn’t John Banks do something to disassociate himself from this sleaze?

      • I dreamed a dream 11.2.1

        “repetitive, vindictive, childish, poorly-written paranoid rants”

        Behaviour from mental health problems? — “The wife of prominent blogger Whale Oil says mental health problems are driving his internet behaviour – which has included a campaign to break suppression orders and insult people online.” – NZHerald

        “why doesn’t John Banks do something to disassociate himself from this sleaze?”

        Good question. We probably know the answer.

    • Anne 11.3

      I can think of several people who probably have a finger in the ‘Len Brown Dirty Smear Campaign’ pie, and they all had former links to the Act Party.

    • Anne 11.4

      I know of several people who probably have a finger in the ‘Campaign to smear Len Brown” pie and they all have past links (at the least) to the Act Party.

      • Anne 11.4.1

        The Request Deletion link (7:39pm) doesn’t seem to be working…?

        • lprent

          The comment gets put into moderation and an e-mail is sent to me as the admin. When I see the e-mail I zap it. However if (like tonight), I’m where the wireless networks aren’t available, another moderator can pop it back into general circulation before I see it.

          Best idea is to reread it and to not press the submit button

  12. peter 12

    I just cannot wait for the turd that is John banks to be flushed into the sewer of history…

    Roll on October !

    • Rharn 12.1

      Celebrity toilet rolls come to mind. May be some enterprising young turk, as a fund raiser of course needs to get some rolls printed Banks portrait on the roll.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 12.2

      But Kohi needs its beach sand. Without and C and R mayor and council who is going to keep approving more funds for more sand?

  13. Ian 13

    Wish Doonesbury would do a cartoon or two of this nasty little right wing smear. Don’t know if you idiot Aucklanders see his cartoons but they are simply brilliant.

  14. Rharn 14

    I can not help but wonder how Banks aligns his Christian values with lies and deceit.

    Perhaps some journo should ask him.

  15. Chris 15

    Wow hypocrisy! I think the whole blind trust thing counts as a smear by a mile if this counts as a smear

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