What is that fishy smell coming from Len Brown's office?

Documents leaked to WOBH show some concerning arrangements at the Manukau City Council regarding the issuing of one council tender to an organisation with close links to Mayor Len Brown.

Len Brown moved at a full council meeting that an independent Council committee’s decision to award a contract and then to award a contract to a former Councillor and Labour supporter who’s organisation lost the bidding process. This sounds very much like a “jobs for the boys” over-riding of council best-practice for no other reason than Len Brown is best mates with the Chairman of the losing bidder.

The trust that he had the council give the contract to is chaired by a former Labour member of the Manukau City Council, and friend. The contract decision of the council’s Tenders Panel was overturned in a “jobs for the boys” type fashion to give the contract to the existing contractor that a number of councillors and the Mayor have ties to.

http://i.thisis.co.uk/274236/binaries/maggots.jpgMy understanding of the documents I have received is that this issue now involves the Auditor-General’s office, though it is unlikely to progress through that avenue because the bar for them to look at Council procedures and Council votes is extremely high. Nevertheless there is a smell about this worse than a fish market on Saturday afternoon.

The contract in question related to the provision of community-based education programmes for Nga Tapuwae Community Centre in Mangere. The contract is for the period 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2012, by which time the Manukau City Council will have ceased to exist.

In 2009 the Manukau City Council issued an RFP. Interested parties were asked to submit a proposal to run the management of the aforementioned community center and the associated community and educational programmes.

Since 2000, the centre had been run by the Tamaki Ti Raro Trust. In 2006 that contract was renewed until December 2007, four subsequent variations extended their contracts to June 2010. the council then put the contract up for tender for a fixed cost of $85,000 p.a.

The council officers ran a competitive tender process known as known the Weighted Attribute Method. At no stage in the tender process was Tamaki Ti Raro trust ever ahead of the eventual winner, The Challenge Trust, in any aspect of the tender requirements. The council officers then sent their report and recommendation to the Council’s Tender Panel. The Tendes panel then approved the the recommendations of the council officers in line with the councils own Procurement Delegations Manual and passed the final decision on to the Policy and Activities Committee.

So far everything is above board. A competitive tender has been held, council officers have conducted their evaluation and awarded the contract to The Challenge Trust (99), with Tamaki Ti Roro Trust scoring (91). The Tenders Panel made up of councillors accepted the recommendation of the council officers and the findings of the evaluation. Then things start going awry.

The whole-of-council Policy and Activities Committee meeting was held. Mayor Len Brown moved that the contract be awarded instead to the Tamaki Ti Roto Trust in direct contradiction of both the tender process, the council officers recommendations and the recommendations of the Tenders Panel. Bear in mind that this a contract for the pending over nearly $200,000 of ratepayers money.

The reasons given by Mayor Len Brown, Alf Filipaina and Anne Candy, all Labour councillors or supportive of Labour were spurious to say the least. They suggested that the hard work and due diligence of the council officers be overturned because Tamaki Ti Raro Trust “understands” Mangere. This is hard to fathom because the trust is almost exclusively Maori in make-up whereas the Mangere Ward of the Manukau City Council is mostly Pasifika (62%), second European(20%) and third Maori (18%) according to the 2006 census. Maori do not even make up a fifth of the population.? The other reason cited were that the Trust was run by a dynamic Maori woman and the Chairman was a former Manukau City Councillor, John Kerr, with longstanding personal relationships with many existing councillors including Mayor Len Brown. What wasn’t mentioned that the longstanding personal relationships were because they were all members of the Labour Party.

The council then vote 9-5 in favour of throwing the competitive tender process results completely out the window and appointing Tamaki Ti Raro Trust as the winner despite finishing a distant second in the tender process.

My sources amongst council officers suggest that this is the first time this has happened in the history of the Manukau city council that they can recall. What makes even more appalling is that it wasn’t based on any performance or technical evidence it was based on feelings, understandings, and personal relationships. The Manukau City Council abandoned due process. As the letter to the Auditor General states,”the decision reflects a departure from any pretence of probity, objectivity and independence.”

This decision is surely a prima facie case of Labour Party cronyism. If Len Brown thinks this sort of nonsense is circumspect and honest then he is ill-qualified to lead a united Auckland City.