$8.5 million of ratepayers' money for Auckland business groups Auckland Council has spent $8.5 million of ratepayers money on grants to business groups since November 2010 - and that doesn't include the $20 million given to the failed Heart of the City group.
Business groups should be funded by business with an idea to keep the Council on its toes. Instead the Super City has turned them into Council cheerleaders thanks to this generous slush fund. We uncovered that a grant was even made for augmented reality wayfinding technology - whatever that is!
Ratepayers deserve answers from the Council as to why this is the best use of $8.5 million, rather than frontline services and core infrastructure. It's little wonder that rates have increased when the Council takes over a function that has always been the role of the local Chamber of Commerce.
We're concerned that once ratepayers' money has left the Council, there is very little accountability for how it is spent as the Heart of the City debacle shows. These business groups receive ratepayers' money, but are still immune from oversight through official information laws.
Business groups once played an opposition role to the excess of local government. With the Council handing out ratepayers’ money to nearly fifty business groups, it’s easy to see how once strong voices of opposition have been placated.
The Heart of the City debacle resulted in a fraud conviction for its CEO with a loss of over $2 million of ratepayers' money because of a lack of accountability and financial oversight by Council.
But don't think this lack of transparency only applies to business groups. Too many groups are being handed ratepayers money with no accountability. This eventually brings Council and local government in general into disrepute with the public.