Stephen Franks writes in NZ Herald:
The Auditor-General is unlikely to fix Auckland Council member Cathy Casey’s complaint that the council was kept in the dark on the V8 race subsidy. The law setting up the Super City deliberately created a presidential mayoralty and gave councillors no clear rights to information.
It certainly does not protect council officers who want to provide unbiased information to councillors against the wishes of their bosses, the chief executive and the mayor.
The law may have been drafted out of frustration with years of indecision fuelled by endless reporting and consultation as excuses for inaction. Perhaps the law’s designers chose to give elected dictatorship a go instead.
Not quite an elected dictatorship. The Mayoral powers are quite weak compared to say Boris Johnson’s. They are stronger than other NZ councils, but not that strong.
Amazingly till now there has been little publicised protest at the constitutional barbarity of this structure. Without clear rights to the same information available to the executive they must monitor, councillors become spare wheels.
Councillors have never had a right to all the information management has, as far as I know.
Some have called the Auckland governance structure the corporate model. If so it is a poor copy. The company model is robust about directors’ rights to oversee management. Directors have an almost unrestricted right to information from anywhere in the company.
I agree that a company director has rights to see pretty much anything from the general ledger to the petty cash reconciliation. But there is a difference between commercial directors and elected officials.
The Auckland mayor holds central power in a hybrid Westminster/presidential system without separation of powers. Unlike all other mayors in New Zealand he is not first among equals. He is the boss.
More like a senior colleague. He can not sack a Councillor, and has the same vote as a Councillor. What the Mayor does get is the ability to appoint Committee Chairs and Committees and to propose the Budget.
Worse, there is no equivalent to central government’s State Services Commission code for state servants, or the parliamentary conventions that oblige officials to provide honest and impartial advice to MPs in a select committee, and protect them from senior wrath when they give it.
Current law requires councils to have a code of conduct for councillors. It should be extended to officers.
Not a bad idea.
Auckland badly needs a constitutional upgrade. Version 2 should enshrine the right of councillors to information. It should protect and constrain council employees along the lines of the State Services Commission code that guides public servants and protects the impartiality of their service.
Auckland Constitution 2 should also require council consultants to certify their work to councillors. They are now a vital part of local government quality control.
With intense competition and Auckland being the major employer of many consultants, the temptation is too great for consultants to tell council officers (who control where the next contract goes) what they want to hear.
All sounds sensible suggestions.Tags: Auckland Council, Stephen Franks