In delivering the jail terms Judge Sally Fitzgerald commented that the culture of bribery and corruption in Auckland Transport was much wider than just these two guilty parties.
The NZ Taxpayers’ Union has issued the following media release
JUDGE'S COMMENTS SUGGEST BRIBERY MORE WIDESPREAD
Reacting to the sentencing of Stephen Borlase and Murray Noone for bribery, Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union says:
“Justice Fitzgerald’s has made very clear that illegal gift-giving and backhanders were much wider at Auckland Transport than just these two individuals. She notes this a number of times in the decision. While we welcome these prison sentences – which reflect the seriousness of the offending – authorities still have more work to do to weed out this sort behavior and ensure organisations like Auckland Transport are corruption free.
"The decision calls into question the whole 'collaborative approach' model of procurement applied by Auckland Transport. What we find most concerning is that despite questions to Auckland Transport by our collegues at the Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance, nothing appears to have changed. Apparently no lessons have been learned."
Will there now be a general enquiry into how contracts are awarded and how costs are justified? Certainly one would be justified based on the judge’s comments.
Despite assurances from Auckland Transport that they are now squeaky clean some dubious practices continue.
One of the big concerns of Judge Fitzgerald when she delivered her decision on the corruption case was that Progenz had effectively got an ‘insider’ in Auckland Council when ‘their man’ Murray Noone was employed by Auckland Transport. Has anything been done to stop the conflicts of interest by consultant groups who have the power to place their own people inside Auckland Council?
There is evidence that activist groups are operating through private consulting firms who have large contracts with Auckland Council. This is how they operate. First the contract consultant employs people from an activist group, say a group like Cycle Auckland. The consultants receive contracts to engage permanent staff for Auckland Council. They place more activists in Council positions. They then have the power to influence decisions and place more contracts with the consulting group and so the cycle is perpetuated. Something similar happened in the Progenz/Rodney District Council/Auckland Transport case.
The growth in the power and influence of cycling groups in the last six years might well be a case in point. A hugely disproportionate amount of Council funds has been spent on cycling in the last six years, especially when less than 1% of commuters are cyclists. Cycle lanes abound pushing out cars and increasing the traffic congestion in central Auckland. Luke Christiansen, a cycle advocate, is employed by consultants MRCagney along with other known cycle advocates. MRCagney were paid $3 million in consulting fees for Auckland Council and Auckland Transport in the last two years alone.
This prompts a whole series of questions. Is there any connection between the growth in Council funding for cycling and the numbers of cycle advocates employed by Council? Were any of the consulting fees paid to MRCagney used to appoint managers for Auckland Transport? Specifically, were any cycling managers engaged by MRCagney staff on behalf of Auckland Transport? Has Auckland Transport paid MRCagney any contract fees for work on cycling related contracts?
Power and influence might not qualify as bribery and corruption but, given the comments from Judge Fitzgerald, Auckland Council, and particularly Auckland Transport, should be super vigilant about how they conduct themselves so that conflicts of interest do not occur. Otherwise ratepayers will suspect the cycle is happening all over again.