IT Contract Comes Under Scrutiny
Wednesday, April 6, 2016 at 2:27PM
Bill Barclay

Today’s meeting was all over bar the ‘public excluded’ by 10.30am – that will give you some idea of the level of scrutiny that Leach is prepared to tolerate.

The only issue that escaped this protective net related to the unbudgeted acquisition of $750k of IT systems, said to be “urgently required to deal with immediate hacking problems” that was approved at the 14 April Special Meeting, and that was the subject of my 31 March post.

Sandra Goudie was so incensed at the process used in this acquisition that she even wrote a paper for today’s meeting that I reproduce here:

 IT April 2016 

With the first IT review done in 2014 by Rocket and a recent 'health check' by Rocket of that report staff have now 'officially closed' the Rocket Report. Reasons given are that the majority of the recommendations have been completed' and/or are part of the department's planned work programme and project portfolio'.(Council Agenda 14  march 2016) 

That suggests that in spite of the ¾   of a million dollars of unbudgeted   expenditure approved, that there is more to come. 

Council have approved budgets for IT previously.

Clearly there is a program of works with associated costs and yet Council are only advised in a piecemeal fashion.

Unbudgeted expenditure of such large amounts is a serious concern and should require strenuous management oversight.

Planned work of this magnitude should have a comprehensive business case, be independently peer reviewed, and tendered to ensure robustness of process, necessity, and accountability. There is no way Council would undertake any infrastructure without such a process. (My bold)

The rationale for 'selective procurement' is spurious to say the least.

By not having the total IT business case up front as one package, in its entirety, evades the proper process of openness and accountability.

This should be even more rigorous for IT given the limited understanding that most people have of what is being asked for.

February The Mayor,Deputy Mayor and Audit Chair approved $233,392.00

March     Council approved an additional half million dollars for IT without Council being advised of the February approvals.

Total- 3/4 of a million dollars.

Sandra does not mince words as you can see, but all it evinced was hostility from Leach, and ‘round the table’ support for the process that had been followed. Cr Fox was foaming at the mouth as he spluttered his indignance at the questioning of the process followed by the Audit Committee and its advisors, of whom the unelected Tauranga accountant Phillip Jones appears to be the main man.

His outburst was followed by a stout but unconvincing defence of everything that had been done to date by Acting CE Ben Day. Not one contributor to the debate answered Sandra’s basic concern regarding process. In fact, it reminded me of some of the more absurd exchanges in the House when Muldoon was bullocking his way to ultimate obfuscation.

Day painted a picture of total break-down in hardware and software prior to this work being undertaken - all the usual justifications for immediate and urgent action. He even had the gall to claim that all the Auckland contractors are 'up to their necks with the billion dollar Auckland Council contract' - he overstepped the mark with that prime hyperbole. 

Fox is convinced that the Audit Committee had the best possible advice, but regardless, the fact that they chose to award the contract in a manner that was contrary to normal procedures appeared to escape the notice of everyone concerned. Transparent open tendering has never been bettered, despite bureaucratic indifference.

Fox gave fair warning of further expenditure far in excess of the $1m allowed in the LTP - a fair indication of the importance to Network Edge Ltd of winning this first contract – in fact, they could even afford to book a loss knowing the advantageous position that they will be in when it comes to fulfilling the Council’s future requirements.     

I remain totally unconvinced by the blustering ‘put-downs’ that characterised this morning’s debate. I hope that Sandra is encouraged to take the matter further regardless of past disinterest of the Auditor General who previously has appeared to perceive the sun as rising and shining over TCDC.     




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