If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck …

Julie Anne Genter and partner Peter Nunns

Whaleoil covered the cosy relationship between MR Cagney and NZTA a month ago.? It seems that others are also a little curious as to what is going on. A Newspaper reports: Quote.

The transport consultancy firm of the partner of the Associate Transport Minister has seen a large increase in Government contracts in the last year.

But a spokesperson for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said as Julie Anne Genter had no responsibility for, or involvement in, any decisions to award contracts to the firm, no conflict of interest has arisen. End quote.

Obviously, as an Associate Minister, Ms Genter would not be awarding contracts, anymore than she would be emptying the bins at NZTA, so that is a bit of a non-statement from the PM. (Like so many of her statements.) That does not mean that there is no pillow talk about contracts that might be in the pipeline. Quote.

According to an Official Information Act (OIA) request by the Taxpayers’ Union, the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) has spent $246,000 on contracting MR Cagney for consulting within the space of a year.

That number jumps to $356,000 when a November 20 contract, which is projected to cost $110,000, has been fully paid out to the firm.

Peter Nunns ? a MR Cagney principal economist ? is the partner of Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter.

A spokesman for MR Cagney said the potential conflict of interest was declared.

“We ensure that clients are aware of any conflicts of interest prior to commencing a project. Where indicated in project contracts we include a clause that identifies any actual, or perceived conflicts of interest and explains how we will manage them.”

But Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke has an issue with the tender for the contracts.

None of the 18 paid MR Cagney contracts were open to tender.

“Even if the Minister has stepped aside from the decision-making, why aren’t these contracts being tendered?

“How can we have confidence that taxpayers are getting value for money, and that the firm is the most qualified if no one is bothering with a competitive process?”

In a statement, NZTA said its procurement manual enables direct appointment for contracts up to $100,000.

None of the contracts awarded and paid out to MR Cagney were over $100,000. End quote.

Oldest trick in the bureaucracy book, split the costs to keep them under the limits. Quote.

The $110,000 November 2018 contract was open to “all of Government panel with secondary process used to determine preferred suppliers”.

The spend on contracting MR Cagney was higher under this Government than it was the last.

Between November 2013 and May 2017, the National Government spent just over $200,000 ? an average of $50,000 a year ? on contracting the firm.

MR Cagney said NZTA’s increased use of their services was a function of greater investment in public transport, walking and cycling being undertaken by the agency, rather than regional councils.

In a statement, Genter said she had nothing to do with who NZTA use as its consultants.

“The decisions about these contracts are not mine to make, and I had no involvement in them.

“I have discussed this potential (or perceived) conflict of interest with the Cabinet Office, and it is being managed appropriately.”

She said she was fully complying with the Cabinet Manual. […] End quote.

Let’s cast our minds back to October 2013 and pick a quote from Newshub: Quote.

October 2013 ? Judith Collins opens Oravida’s new Auckland headquarters.

October 20, 2013 ? Collins has dinner with Oravida bosses Stone Shi and Julia Xu, along with a senior Chinese border official in Beijing, China, while on a tax-funded trip. She claims it was a “personal dinner” and that no business was discussed. End quote.

And update it a little:

Pre-election ? Julie Anne Genter works at MR Cagney’s Auckland headquarters.

2018 ? Genter has dinner with MR Cagney partner Peter Nunns. She claims it was a “personal dinner” and that no business was discussed.

Or random quotes from Stuff at the time: Quote.

Labour is claiming there is further evidence that dairy company Oravida got special treatment from the Government.

Robertson says Collins’ “intervention” was “designed to benefit Oravida”.

Labour leader David Cunliffe […] questioned the way which Collins was being protected by prime minister John Key and said Labour had more revelations on the issue.

“If the average Kiwi worker was untruthful to their boss and to the public they would most likely lose their job,” he said. End quote.

Surely, what’s good for the Collins is good for the Genter, as the old saying goes? (Or are my metaphors getting fowled up?)