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Media release from the Taxpayers' Union

MEDIA RELEASE

QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED ABOUT PAYMENTS BY DUNEDIN CITY COUNCIL TO FORMER MP

24 FEBRUARY 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Taxpayers’ Union is questioning the internal controls at Dunedin City Council after the Union uncovered a $3,400 payment by the Council to former MP and cabinet minister Pete Hodgson, made with no documentation. Following a media report that Mr Hodgson had been recruited by the Council for lobbying, the Taxpayers’ Union requested information about the services being provided by Mr Hodgson under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act. The Council’s response has been made public today at www.taxpayers.org.nz.

According to the Council’s response, Mr Hodgson’s work consisted of “lobbying and advocating on behalf of the Council” and there is no supporting documentation.

“The Taxpayers’ Union asked the Council for the documentation relating to the payments," says union Executive Director, Jordan Williams. “They told us everything was verbal, and could not provide a single report, email, or even a letter of engagement."

"They claim that all of the contracts were negotiated verbally and there is no documentation to explain a deal between the Mayor and Mr Hodgson.” 

“We asked for copies of any work done by Mr Hodgson. All we got back were two letters by the Mayor on which Mr Hodgson apparently had input."

"It is alarming that $3,400 of ratepayer money was paid to Mr Hodgson and the Council can't even point us to an invoice. What did Mr Hodgson do? Was it just expensive proof reading? Is Mr Hodgson friends with the Mayor? If so, there is greater need for more light on this."

“Though it’s a small amount, it suggests that Dunedin City Council isn’t applying the most basic internal controls. What other government agency spends $3,400 without any documentation?”

"The Council’s response raises serious questions. Why was the Mayor negotiating this in the first place? Why verbally? Why is there absolutely no documentation for the arrangement, not even an email? No wonder this council has a history of financial troubles, they're running it like a cake stall.

“Without an explanation from the Council, we are left wondering whether the Auditor-General should get involved," concludes Mr Williams.

ENDS

ENQUIRIES:
Jordan Williams
021 762 542

NOTES TO EDITORS:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is a non-partisan activist group, dedicated to being the voice for Kiwi taxpayers in the corridors of power. It’s here to fight government waste and make sure New Zealanders get value for money from their tax dollar.

The Taxpayers’ Union operates a 24 hour media line for comment on taxpayer issues. Representatives are available on (04) 282 0302.

High resolution images and logos are available on request or online at http://www.taxpayers.org.nz/pages/resources

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