Turning seven organisations, each with different systems, into one was always going to be the new Auckland Council’s greatest challenge. There was a great willingness from politicians and the public to give the new organisation a chance given the difficult task it was facing. The question is, when does the public stop forgiving the chaos and start expecting Council to perform.
In the first three years what I experienced was an organisation struggling to invent itself. Old scores had been settled as the knives came out to cull the experienced staff in the old Auckland City Council. They were often replaced by bright young things with little or no knowledge of how to make the new Council work. Many simply didn’t know what public accountability meant. Institutional knowledge was lost. High staff turnover was the best indicator that the system was dysfunctional.
The Chief Executive Officer, who’s job it is to make the organisation work efficiently and effectively, was brought in with no Council background. He resigned once his three year contract was up. I’m not surprised. I’m sure he tried to fight the good fight but it must have been like waddling in glue compared to running a private enterprise business. He must have also been gravely disappointed in his leader, the Mayor, whose focus was on his own PR rather than creating a functional organisation.
Nearly four years on the public is entitled to ask if any progress has been made. The answer must be a resounding no when they read articles like this in today’s Herald.
Council's divisive survey slammed
Aucklanders shocked by questionnaire on attitudes to Asians
Given the PC nature of Council, and to quote Councillor George Wood, it is gobsmacking that a 'racist' survey could come out of Council. So how did it? Who was responsible? Was it Council’s own communications department who drew up the survey or did they contract out the work and not oversee it properly? The article fails to answer these questions.
How can the people of Auckland have faith in Council if this is how it operates. It took a complaint from the public to get the ridiculous survey withdrawn. But not all complaints from the public result in appropriate action being taken.
A Waiheke example of how Council has failed to respond appropriately to a complaint came to my attention recently. The incident that led to the complaint is irrelevant. Council’s response is not. When a complaint is made through Council’s Call Centre the public has a right to expect their names and addresses remain confidential, otherwise why would anyone bother. Someone at the Call Centre gave out the personal details of the complainant and somewhere along the line it resulted in a bully boy arriving at their home and right royally abusing and threatening them.
But here’s the thing. Despite subsequent numerous emails and phone calls from the complainant to Council asking them to look into the matter and find the person at the Call Centre responsible for not protecting their privacy no action has been taken. All is now silence. It’s the sound of Council closing ranks to protect its own and bugger the public.
As I’ve said before, a fish rots from the head. If the Mayor can get away with scandalous behaviour and treats the public with contempt by failing to resign, it’s no surprise the organisation does likewise. Is the Council a dysfunctional organisation? That was a rhetorical question.