The doubled edged audit sword

I write at the NZ Herald:

The decision by the Deputy to inquire into international convention centre tender, more popularly known as the deal, is a double-edged sword for the Government and the Opposition.

If the Deputy Auditor-General finds that the tender process was not run in a fair way, then it will damage the credibility of the Minister of Tourism. The Minister also, of course, happens to be the Prime Minister. This means adverse findings could strike at the heart of the Government.

However if the Deputy Auditor-General does not conclude there were any significant issues in the awarding of the tender, then it could blunt the opposition attacks on the awarding in principle of the tender to Sky City.

I also note the way different PMs have handled the Audit Office:

The Office of the Auditor-General is a vital one in our constitutional arrangements. It is the public watchdog, and has very wide powers. It has not always endeared itself to the Government of the day. When the Auditor-General found that most parliamentary parties had illegally spent taxpayer money on electioneering, then Prime Minister Helen Clark attacked the finding, saying she does not accept the reasoning in his opinion and judgement, and that he was wrong. She refused to express confidence in his competence, and said he “has a serious credibility problem”.

This response is in stark contrast to the current Prime Minister who said he welcome the inquiry by the Deputy Auditor-General, and was “delighted” with it. 

I still regard those attacks on the Auditor-General as a low point in executive behaviour.

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