Tuesday, February 19, 2013


The Office of the Auditor-General has released its report [PDF] into John Key's cosy deal with SkyCity over the Auckland Convention Centre. John Key claims to have been "vindicated", but reading the report a different picture emerges. Yes, the Deputy Auditor-General finds that Key didn't break any rules. But this is because it was a novel sort of arrangement, so there were basically no rules to break. They also find that the decision to go with SkyCity was not "influenced by inappropriate considerations" - that is, no-one took a bribe (which no-one had alleged). But on the substantive question of whether the government ran an open, fair and transparent process to ensure all bidders had an equal chance and that we got value for money, the answer is a clear "no". The government started such a process, then Key started wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, and basically used it as cover while he negotiated preferentially with SkyCity. In the Deputy Auditor-General's words:

[T]he result was that SkyCity was treated very differently from the other parties that responded and the evaluation process effectively moved into a different phase with one party. In our view, the steps that were taken were not consistent with good practice principles of transparency and fairness.
If that's "vindication", I'd hate to see what guilt looks like.

As the Deputy Auditor-General points out, we follow these processes for a reason: to ensure competition and value for money, and to protect against cronyism and corruption. Insofar as we got the former and avoided the latter in this case, it was only by accident. I expect better from our government, and better from John Key.