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Tip-line catches out councils - Taxpayers' Union

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Taxpayers’ Union ‘tip-line’ appears to have caught out Auckland and Wellington City Councils providing the Union misleading or incorrect information under official information laws.

The Taxpayers’ Union has written ‘please explain’ letters to both councils, seeking explanations of how incorrect information was provided under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act. "To date, neither Council has managed to come up with an explanation," says Jordan Williams, the Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director.

Auckland Council: Official’s expenses on trip to China in early 2013

Prior to publicly launching, the Taxpayers’ Union was informed that there was potentially inappropriate hospitality expenditure on a mayoral trip to China earlier this year. Union volunteers began enquiries, but Council officials formally stated that the Mayor’s last trip to China was a year earlier, in March 2012."

Since the public launch, a Council official has indicated that the Mayor had in fact travelled to China in January 2013. In addition, Auckland Council staff have apparently been instructed not to speak about the particular trip and to refer all enquiries to the Mayor’s office.

"It appears that Council officials have forgotten a Mayoral trip to China, or worse deliberately mislead the Taxpayers’ Union to avoid scrutiny of ratepayer funded travel."

"We have complained to the Ombudsman."

Wellington City Council: same website cost $1.7 million in April, but only $317,726 in October

The Taxpayers’ Union recently released analysis on the spending of council websites, which showed that Wellington City Council had spent $317,726 on web design and development, including the rebuild of wellington.govt.nz.

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union Inc. PO Box 10518, The Terrace 6143, Wellington www.taxpayers.org.nz

"We spotlighted a provincial council for having an expensive website but the whole time it seems Wellington knew that it had sunk five times the amount it had disclosed to us in its own gold-plated site. The difference is that Marlborough was upfront about the cost."

"Ratepayers rely on councils being honest in their responses to requests for financial information. Central government has replaced old restrictions on powers with disclosure as the main constraint on abuses of power or privilege. But it seems some local authorities are now treating that discipline with contempt. The remedy for misleading or incorrect responses to information requests is the Ombudsman and the public calling them out."

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