The Sky City reports

The Deputy has reported:

The inquiry has considered both the adequacy of the process followed and whether anything substantively wrong has taken place. The main question underlying this inquiry was whether the Government’s decision to negotiate with SkyCity had been influenced by inappropriate considerations, such as connections between political and business leaders.

We have seen no evidence to suggest that the final decision to negotiate with SkyCity was influenced by any inappropriate considerations.

The Opposition will try and ignore this conclusion.

However, we found a range of deficiencies in the advice that the Ministry provided and the steps that officials and Ministers took leading up to that decision. The quality of support that was provided fell short of what we would have expected from the lead government agency on commercial and procurement matters.

And this appears to be very fair criticism. Note that there is no suggestion that the process should be redone. Also none of the other bidders want (as far as I know) for the process to be redone.

The full report is here. A quote:

In our view, the result was that one potential submitter had a clearer understanding of the actual position on a critical issue – that the Government  did not want to fund any capital costs – than any other potential submitters. 

Although this is a fl aw in the process, it might not have had significant consequences. The other submitters still understood that the Government’s finances were constrained, and became more so as 2010 progressed. No other submitter appears to have been likely to be able to adapt their proposal to enable them to fund the full construction costs. We accept that it is unlikely that this flaw made a material difference to the outcome.

Also:

Given the nature of the responses, it is likely that the SkyCity proposal was always going to be the most attractive from most perspectives. Indeed, in the course of this inquiry, we have not heard any comment to suggest that other proposers did not understand the reasons why the Government might prefer the SkyCity proposal. …

We accept that officials were acting in good faith to support decision-making by Ministers on some difficult and controversial matters. The fact that the process was unsatisfactory does not automatically mean that the conclusions reached were unsound.

Now this is not to minimise the criticism of the Deputy Auditor-General. MED did not run the process to the standard expected, and the Government should ensure it does so in future. But let’s be very clear that this is a different issue from whether the report of the DAG means the convention centre agreement should not proceed.

Also worth noting:

In the previous Parts, we briefly mentioned that officials have researched the costs of increased gambling and provided advice to Ministers on this. It is not appropriate for us to detail the content of that advice in this report, but we can confirm that we are satisfied that the issues have received adequate attention during the evaluation and negotiation process. As already noted, any reforms of this kind will also be debated publicly and by Parliament before they can be implemented.

Of course the Government and are yet to agree on a package, so the focus will now be on an agreement being struck, and then legislation proposed to implement it.

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