Leggett vows to abolish slush fund

Stuff reports:

Nick Leggett has promised to axe what he calls Wellington City Council’s annual $3 million “secret slush fund” if he becomes the capital’s mayor.

Leggett took aim at the council’s City Growth Fund on Wednesday, pledging to abolish it and redirect the ratepayer cash into a strategy for tackling the “challenges” faced by Wellington’s CBD.

The City Growth Fund, formally the Wellington Economic Initiatives Development (WEID) Fund, has been a controversial topic around the council table this past term.

About $3m has been made available annually since 2013 to support economic growth initiatives. But some councillors have been critical of the fact that funding decisions are made by a smaller panel of councillors, behind closed doors.

The council recently began revealing the names of funding recipients every six months, along with how much money some of them receive.

But some funding amounts are kept quiet for reasons of commercial sensitivity, and the council has not given any public indication of what its return on investment has been.

Leggett said the City Growth Fund met the “textbook definition of a slush fund”.

“We must always take a careful and transparent approach to spending ratepayer money and, frankly, this scheme leaves the council wide open to accusations of corruption.”

I’m not sure whether or not the fund should be abolished because the secrecy around it means it is impossible to evaluate.

At a minimum every single recipient of a grant from the fund should be named, and the amount published. If this is unacceptable to a recipient, well then they can decide not to apply.

Also there should be an annual review of all grants made more than a year ago, to see if the grants did produce any economic benefit.