The prime minister this morning said that the government had been “totally vindicated” by the report by the Office of the Auditor General into the choice of SkyCity to build a convention centre in Auckland.
Speaking to National Radio ahead of the release of the report, John Key was asked:
How comfortable are you with the way the convention centre was tendered and SkyCity chosen as the preferred candidate?
Well, out of a hundred, one hundred.
And the top line certainly appears to support Key’s insistence.
“We have seen no evidence to suggest that the final decision to negotiate with SkyCity was influenced by any inappropriate considerations,” says Deputy Auditor-General Phillippa Smith in the report released this afternoon.
And yet, 100% comfortable? Does this percentage come from the New-Zealand-Pure calculator?
Because here are some other lines from the report:
1. “We found a range of deficiencies in the advice provided and steps taken leading up to [the] decision.”
2. “Although decisions were made on the merits of the different proposals, we do not consider that the evaluation process was transparent or even handed.”
3. “By the time it was expected that SkyCity would put a ﬁrm proposal to the Government for support, officials should have been working to understand and advise on the procedural obligations and principles that would need to govern the next steps. We found no evidence that officials were doing so at this stage.”
4. “The meetings and discussion between the Government representatives and SkyCity were materially different in quantity and kind from those between the Government and the other parties that responded.”
5. “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.”
6. “Overall, we regard the EOI [expressions of interest] process in stage two as having been poorly planned and executed. Insufficient attention was given to planning and management of the process as a whole, so that risks were not adequately addressed and managed.”
7. “We did not see any evidence of formal discussions or decisions on the evaluation process and criteria, or mapping out of the basic options for what might happen next, or advice to Ministers on how the process would be managed and their involvement in it. We do not regard this as adequate for a project of this potential scale, complexity, and risk.”
8. “We have concluded that the preparation for the EOI process and the EOI document, fell short of good practice in a number of respects.”
9. “In our view, the result was that one potential submitter had a clearer understanding of the actual position on a critical issue – that the Government did not want to fund any capital costs – than any other potential submitters … We accept that it is unlikely that this flaw made a material difference to the outcome. However, we have spent some time discussing it because we regard it as symptomatic of the lack of attention to procedural risks, and therefore to the fairness and credibility of the process.”
10. “We are unable to comment on the value of any contribution the Government might make as part of any eventual agreement with SkyCity, because negotiations have not yet been concluded.”