The Taxpayers’ Union has found the DCC made payments to a former MP without documentation:
This morning the Taxpayers’ Union went public with material concerning a payment (or payments) totalling $3,400 by the Dunedin City Council to former MP Pete Hogdson with no documentation or contact.
We’re questioning the internal controls at the Council after the uncovering the payment following a recent media report that Mr Hodgson had been recruited by the Council for lobbying. We asked for information about the services being provided by Mr Hodgson under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act. Click “continue reading” below to view the Council’s response.
According to the Council, Mr Hodgson’s work consisted of “lobbying and advocating on behalf of the Council” and there is no supporting documentation.
The Council has told us that:
- Everything was verbal. The Council could not provide a single report, email, or even letter of engagement.
- All of the contracts were negotiated verbally.
- The contracts were negotiated by the Mayor and there is no documentation to explain the deal.
We asked for copies of any work by Mr Hodgson. All we got back was two letters by the mayor on which Mr Hodgson apparently had input. It is not clear what precisely that was. For example, there is no ‘tracked changes” document.
We think Dunedin ratepayers will be alarmed that their Council paid $3,400 apparently without so much as an invoice. Dunedin ratepayers should ask their Mayor:
- What did Mr Hodgson do? Was this just expensive proof reading?
- 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?”
- Is Mr Hodgson friends with the Mayor?
- Why doesn’t Dunedin Council have the most basic internal controls, requiring amounts to be paid by invoice only?
The Council’s response raises serious questions. We can’t think of another government agency that would spend $3,400 without being able to provide as much as an invoice.
Without an explanation from the Council, we are left wondering whether the Auditor-General should get involved.”
You can read the council’s response by clicking on the link above.
Dunedin mayor Dave Cull defends the payment:
Dunedin Dave Cull is defending a “gentleman’s” agreement which saw a former MP paid $3400 for lobbying following a handshake deal.
Documents released under the Official Information Act reveal that former Dunedin North MP Pete Hodgson was paid by the council to lobby the Government not to strip core functions of Ag Research Limited from Invermay, near Dunedin.
The council said the main point of contact for the deal with Hodgson was Cull, but could not locate a single email, contract or any other document relating to the agreement. Hodgson had provided “lobbying and advocating” on behalf of council, and that he had “contributed” to a letter to Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and a submission written to the board of Ag Research.
“Mr Hodgson did not provide any reports relating to his services,” governance support officer Grace Ockwell said.
Cull, a former TV personality, denied personally hiring Hodgson, but defended the deal. “I could describe it as a gentleman’s way of doing business in the south,” Cull said. He would be uncomfortable if the council always negotiated contracts verbally, but in this instance he was not concerned. . . .
Gentlemen’s agreements in the south, or anywhere else, should not be over the spending of public money without the necessary paperwork to track and explain it.
The sum involved – $3,400 – isn’t large but that’s not the point.
People and organisations who spend other people’s money are duty-bound to do the paper work.