Mayor gets former MP $3,400 with no documentation

Hamish Rutherford at Stuff reports:

Dunedin Dave Cull is defending a “gentleman’s” agreement which saw a former MP paid $3400 for lobbying following a handshake deal.

Documents released under the Official Information Act reveal that former Dunedin North MP Pete Hodgson was paid by the council to lobby the Government not to strip core functions of Ag Research Limited from Invermay, near Dunedin.

The council said the main point of contact for the deal with Hodgson was Cull, but could not locate a single email, contract or any other document relating to the agreement. Hodgson had provided “lobbying and advocating” on behalf of council, and that he had “contributed” to a letter to Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and a submission written to the board of Ag Research.

“Mr Hodgson did not provide any reports relating to his services,” governance support officer Grace Ockwell said.

Cull, a former TV personality, denied personally hiring Hodgson, but defended the deal. “I could describe it as a gentleman’s way of doing business in the south,” Cull said. He would be uncomfortable if the council always negotiated contracts verbally, but in this instance he was not concerned.

Taxpayers’ Union executive director Jordan Williams questioned whether the spending was appropriate.

“Though it’s a small amount, it suggests that Dunedin Council isn’t applying the most basic internal controls,” Williams said. What other government agency spends $3400 without any documentation?”

I have no real issue with the Dunedin City Council paying Pete Hodgson to lobby for them on an issue..

But to pay $3,400 with no contract, no agreement, no report, no agreed deliverables and not even an invoice is near unheard of.

If Cull did not hire Hodgson, who did? The ratepayers do not know, because there is no documentation.

A former Minister of the Crown of all people should make sure any contracts that involved public money being paid to himself are clearly documented and agreed. A verbal agreement between a former Minister and a City Council fails the most basic transparency test.

More info on this at the Taxpayers Union. It seems the $3,400 was for assisting with two letters!

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