$8 million and no paperwork

Hamish Rutherford reports at Stuff:

A decision to subsidise Singapore Airlines new Wellington flights for the next decade saw virtually nothing put in writing.

Documents released by the Wellington City Council show that apart from a presentation made to councillors after the decision was made, the council generated a single two page document, which refers to the subsidy only in passing.

Decision by powerpoint!

In January it was revealed that Wellington City Council chief executive Kevin Lavery had approved a subsidy for a new Singapore-Canberra-Wellington route from the Destination Wellington fund. The route launched on September 21. 

The council has never disclosed the maximum Singapore Airlines, one of Asia’s largest airlines, could be paid, but documents suggest it could be $800,000 a year for 10 years.

So $8 million of taxpayer money given to Singapore Air on no paperwork. I’d expect a very detailed economic impact report and business case as a minimum.

The Ombudsman, the authority appointed to monitor the official information disclosures of government agencies, has investigated the council on the information it released, and concluded that no other written documents exist.

The release suggests Lavery neither sent nor received a single piece of correspondence on the request, commissioned no analysis on Wellington Airport and Singapore Airlines’ claims about the route, or had any written contact with Singapore Airlines on the payment whatsoever.

On Monday Lavery and the council refused to comment on the subsidy or the decision making process behind it.

Justin Lester, who as deputy mayor was involved in the negotiations to bring Singapore Airlines to Wellington, defended the process, saying the spending was within Lavery’s authority.

That’s not the issue. Lester is defending $8 million of secret corporate welfare that even worse has no written justification for it. This is outrageous behaviour and there needs to be accountability for it.

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