Editorials on “gentlemen’s agreement”

February 26th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull is defending the agreement under which former Dunedin North MP Pete Hodgson was paid by Cull’s council to lobby the Government to retain the core functions of AgResearch at Invermay. Hodgson was paid $3400 for duties which included advocating on the council’s behalf, contributing to a letter to Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and writing a 10-page report for the board of AgResearch.

The council says that Cull was its main point of contact with Hodgson, but it could not locate a single email, contract or any other document relating to the agreement. Cull said: “I could describe it as a gentleman’s way of doing business in the south.” …

In matters involving public money, it is absolutely essential that the principles of transparency and accountability are upheld. There are sometimes good commercial reasons for withholding some information, but they don’t apply here. Cull has done Dunedin ratepayers a disservice with this handshake deal and his cavalier attempt to explain it.

Also an editorial in the Southland Times:

Could you smell the port and stale cigar smoke on Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull’s breath as he defended the “gentleman’s agreement” under which his council paid former MP Pete Hodgson for lobbying?

Mr Hodgson was paid $3400 for his work helping the council advocate that Invermay retain its core Ag Research functions. He was plausibly the best person for the job. But it was done on a handshake with nary a contract – and all that tedious accountability that goes with it – in sight. …

Mr Hodgson says the fact that nothing was written up “would probably reflect their trust in me”.

As far as the public is concerned, what this should reflect is the untrustworthiness of all involved.

A council, a mayor and a former minister of the Crown should collectively and individually know full well that this was dodgy and then some.

The Taxpayers’ Union, while acknowledging that it isn’t an eye-watering amount, detects that the council isn’t applying the most basic internal controls.

It is the principle, not the amount. But when it involves public money with one politician awarding it to another politician, you need to be absolutely transparent.

The good news is that while there was no contract, there was at least an invoice. The Taxpayers Union is pleased with this, but asking the question who then authorised the payment. The Mayor keeps insisting it had nothing much to do with him, while the Council says he was the primary point of contact. So who signed it off?

The ODT reports:

Chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose said yesterday invoices should have been included in the OIA response, but the staff member writing the response ”was simply answering the question ‘was there a contract?’ and the answer seems to have been no”.

It was also a ”mistake” not to write a contract for Mr Hodgson’s services, she said.

”It appears that there have been more than one of these mistakes and it appears that there is a small number of managers who were not aware [of council policy].”

The council did not use ”gentlemen’s agreements” and had reiterated to staff all employment transactions, no matter how small, should be covered by contracts.

Good to see.

As readers will know, I helped found the Taxpayers’ Union. On a modest budget and limited resources we’ve already made a lot of impact with both local and central government in attacking wasteful or sloppy spending, including the $19 million spent by ACC which by their own accounting was at best returning 14 cents in the dollar.  You can join the union for just $5, subscribe to newsletters for free, and/or donate to help keep us going. The board members are all volunteers. As we head into election year expect more of a focus not just on wasteful spending, but making the case for taxes to be reduced as the crown accounts head back into surplus.

Tags: , , , ,

14 Responses to “Editorials on “gentlemen’s agreement””

  1. tvb (4,324 comments) says:

    Pete Hodgsen is an idiot I would have thought it counter productive to have him involved in a lobbying effort with National Ministers. And that makes me even more suspicious what is going on here.

    Vote: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  2. lilman (951 comments) says:

    SERIOUSLY !!!!!!!!!!

    These two are just unbelievable,this is so bent you could say it makes Len Brown look like a papal candidate.

    The council members are equally to blame if they let this stand,if I were a ratepayer they would be getting little sleep tonight

    Vote: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  3. PaulL (6,030 comments) says:

    I like the taxpayers union. Although I think it important that they also care about consumers, and I’d seriously consider being an association instead of a union.

    Vote: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  4. Sidey (249 comments) says:

    PaulL,

    I made a promise to myself 25 years ago to never voluntarily belong to a union. An association on the other hand….

    Maybe there are tax advantages in being registered as a union v. an association? The ability to not bother with such trifling matters as passing on deductions to the IRD perhaps….

    Vote: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  5. Sidey (249 comments) says:

    Most business in Dunedin (including council-related business) used to be conducted at Strictly Coffee in Bath Street. I seem to recall the council tried to put a stop to senior council staff enjoying a leisurely morning tea with the same small group of developers. Cosy little town. No outsiders thanks.

    Having said that, they’d screw each over the last biscuit, so I doubt very much there is any such thing in local business as a gentleman’s agreement. Me thinks Mr Cull said the first thing that popped into his head when found out. Unlike his former TV shows, there are no second takes.

    Vote: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  6. Positan (386 comments) says:

    Just goes to show how bad Labour ministers really are. Someone of Hodgson’s former experience as a cabinet minister shouldn’t have even dreamed of touching anything that involved public monies – especially, when recipient of such monies – without having first met all necessary requirements of the procedures demanded.

    Makes you wonder how he really functioned and performed as a minister – and how his department functioned under him.

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  7. holysheet (338 comments) says:

    I like the way everybody seems to think all cabinet ministers have some kind of status that we plebs need to look up to.
    Remember we are talking here about an ex liabore minister from the times of hullin the hun. Why would you expect any better from the present lot when they were all taught by the past masters of corruption.

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  8. hmmokrightitis (1,585 comments) says:

    Wonder if the IRD have been on the phone to the old vet :)

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  9. RRM (9,774 comments) says:

    It’s not “an eye-watering amount” but it’s still several weeks’ work to a lot of ratepayers.

    Slimy bastards.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  10. slijmbal (1,233 comments) says:

    “Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull is defending the agreement under which former Dunedin North MP Pete Hodgson was paid by Cull’s council to lobby the Government ….”

    except if what Hodgsen stated on RNZ is true he was actually paid to do some research and the lobbying he did was after and a result of this job and was on his own bat. Not that I have any love of the guy but his representation of what he did on RNZ was logical, reasonable and very credible.

    It looks like this may all be the result of a journalist interviewing his own copy of Word and not have any basis in fact.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  11. PaulL (6,030 comments) says:

    @Sidey: I’m just not sure that Association of Taxpayers will be sufficient. I do really still care about consumers.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  12. Mobile Michael (443 comments) says:

    Joined the day it was announced. I was sick of the opinion page of every paper being full of lobby groups demanding more government, more spending, more flimsy cost/benefit. Here was a group that was speaking the very opposite of everyone else and speaking for those of us whohave to keep pouring more and more in for things to just get worse.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  13. gravedodger (1,545 comments) says:

    What is claimed to be a move by Mayor Cull to thwart Ag Research moving away from Invermay with a loss of up to 85 jobs presented Cull with a very plausible positive move around the LB elections.

    So why not trumpet this move by NZLP people who support Cull?
    Why the covert moves sans any paper trail?
    What other such movement of money?

    The figure here is $3400, can the CEO confirm it was a one off?

    Typical stench ridden labour shitheap.

    Auckland Brown stains, Wellington City setting wages under Waldegraves direction, Christchurch Mayor needs four staff to do what Parker and his missus did, and now Dunedin.
    Is this the impetus for either a widening of the contributions to council from all citizens so voting and spending are better connected to those who contribute or have voting by ratepayers only. I support the former.

    $3400 here 100k there and the odd million and soon it is serious money we are spending in ways no ratepayer would support personally and individually.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  14. mandk (950 comments) says:

    @ Sidey,
    Your description of Dunedin reminds me of Dundee, in Scotland, where I lived for a while.
    The city had a reputation for being run by a corrupt coterie of insiders, and it used to be said that the loudest noise in the back of the mayoral limousine was the sound of wads of banknotes changing hands.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.