Local body elections: who will explain DCC’s books . . .

Received from Hype O’Thermia
Monday, 22 April 2013 3:37 a.m.

“In the boardroom, [Ngai Tahu chairman Mark] Solomon favours plain speaking. He tells a story about trying to get his head around the accounting terms used in Ngai Tahu’s financial statements, terms like EVA (economic value added) and WACC (weighted average cost of capital).

To improve understanding of such terms he asked for an explanatory document to be created and issued that with the report to iwi. It worked. Recently at one meeting an 84-year-old woman stood and challenged Solomon, arguing Ngai Tahu’s WACC was 1 per cent too low.”

Mark Solomon (stuff.co.nz)### stuff.co.nz Last updated 05:00 21/04/2013
Business
The wisdom of Solomon
By Rob O’Neill – Sunday Star Times
After 15 years on the board, the chairman of Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, Sir Mark Solomon, is willing to retire, but he will stay on for the long haul if he can’t find the right successor to lead the tribal council. Solomon, knighted in the 2013 New Year’s honours list for services to Maori and business, said, as with any organisation, there were people who put their own interests first and people who put the collective interest first. In Ngai Tahu terms he calls these “I Tahu” and “We Tahu”. “I’ve always stood in the middle of the ‘we’ camp,” he told an Institute of Directors conference in Auckland last week. “It always seems to me that politics is about ‘I’ versus ‘we’.” Whoever takes on his job will have to also be a “we” person, he said. Read more

Wouldn’t it be great if “Greater Dunedin’s” pre-election commitment to transparency had resulted in something like this, to bust asunder some of the tools used in official obfuscation!

Imagine if such an explanatory document had been distributed to ratepayers instead of Rodney’s puff-mag, and not only given to councillors but read aloud, attendance compulsory, security staff present to monitor for sleepiness and texty-wexing lovey-dove or playing angry birds under the table.

[ends]

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

Image: Mark Solomon via stuff.co.nz

17 Comments

Filed under Business, DCC, DCHL, DVL, DVML, Economics, Name, People, Politics, Project management

17 responses to “Local body elections: who will explain DCC’s books . . .

    • Ha ha. Nope, Hype is sound of mind – which can’t be said of the Robber Barons at DCC or those outside using DCC for own gains: (to borrow from Solomon) “I-dcc” v “We-dcc” [?], oh hell….. “Rob-dcc” = “Stifftheratepayers-dcc”

      • Hype – Agree re Mr Solomon.
        Sadly though, with DCC we can’t get to all their books so anything trite (DCC and DCHL annual reports) that goes to the Auditor General annually indeed covers the multitudes of sins that will always be kept away from public disclosure.
        DCC is severely complex, even with a toolkit offer that could make GD look less like incompetent ghouls.
        PWC couldn’t get to the bottom; Larry Mitchell can only ‘suspect’ from the consolidated audited accounts since he can’t get through the DCC gilded gate to “other stuff”…
        SFO and OAG are playing games to fend off investigation of Delta (till after the October elections) etc etc

        Hideous!

  1. Hype O'Thermia

    As in “Pre-election promises? DON’T GET ME STARTED”?
    Yes.

  2. Hype O'Thermia

    Needless complexity.  Ngai Tahu is huge and complex too, that’s why I
    think it’s a good opportunity to draw attention to the contrast – and
    ask the questions about why the DCC has set a course so firmly in the
    opposite direction to that outlined by Solomon.
    Is it a gradual process like “tidying up the house” by grabbing everything out-of-place and piling it all in a cupboard, till the door will hardly shut and nobody can tell what’s in the bottom layers?
    Is it muddle-headedness, inability to think clearly and organise logically?
    Is it deliberate, a carefully arranged series of sharp practices to avoid scrutiny, to “never let the left hand know what the right hand’s doing”?

  3. chirpbird

    More don’t let your right hand even know you have a left hand. The only way this can be fixed is by legislation to stop ‘accounting’ which does not in fact give an account to those who it ought to give an account to.
    I wonder if the Plain English movement (a worldwide campaign against gobbledegook, especially when used by official agencies) could be extended to ‘financial narrative’. as well.
    http://www.plainenglish.org.nz/
    Some local bodies in NZ have adopted Plain English already and I think there may have been a Private Member’s Bill around to make its use compulsory for official entities like councils. So this is a do-able project. Hmm, will email the Plain English NZ website and see if they are on to this problem of incomprehensible financial narrative …

  4. chirpbird

    Rachel MacAlpine in the Chair of Plain English Power. http://www.plainenglish.org.nz/
    Most kindly responded promptly and fully to my email. There is a standard which the council should be using. Quoting her: Visual clarity and “universal page design” are seen as an aspect of accessibility. NZ government agencies are legally required to meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidlines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0): check it out.
    https://webtoolkit.govt.nz/
    One of the guidelines is that content should be “understandable”.
    She says: The organisation most skilled in this area (to my knowledge) is the Royal NZ Foundation of the Blind. In my business, Contented.com, we work closely with them.
    Next step for me is to enquire from someone sensible at the DCC (like Governance Officer, Sandy Graham, whether the DCC has ever heard of this. It probably is a ‘governance’ matter anyway. Cr MacTavish may champion it, as she has done a degree in Science Communications, I think.

  5. chirpbird

    Oh, I mentioned to Rachel a great book called “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” by Edward Tufte, the originator and leader in the field. She was aware of his work and highly praised it. So financial information could be displayed ‘graphically’ and in other ways according to his guidelines. I do believe if a person understands information thoroughly themselves and have these skills, then with a combination of words and well laid out diagrams/chart/etc anything CAN be made understandable.
    Maybe currently the DCC 1) doesn’t understand it themselves 2) the information itself is incomplete and/or doesn’t make sense.

    I note that the PriceWaterhouseCooper report on the stadium decision clearly states that they believe the councillors did NOT understand what they were agreeing to. Shocking!

  6. Maybe they just don’t want us – nor councillors – to understand the workings of the bureaucracy. It protects them, and at the same time makes them seem indispensable. What’s wrong with that?

  7. Elizabeth; I love bureaucracy? Love is not a word which immediately springs to mind. More like, ‘sheesh!’ what is this, a comic opera?

  8. ### ODT Online Wed, 1 May 2013
    Waipori windfall for DCC coffers
    By Chris Morris
    The Dunedin City Council is sitting on a more than $8 million operating surplus, fuelled in part by a healthier-than-expected Waipori Fund, as the end of the financial year approaches. However, council staff are warning the council’s coffers will not be so flush by July 1 – the start of the next financial year – and the cost of any winter storm could yet soak up any remaining surplus. A report to the last finance, strategy and development committee meeting showed the council’s operating surplus had reached $8.3 million by February 28. That included a better-than-expected result for the Waipori Fund, which grew by just over $7 million to $76.9 million, which was $4.9 million better than expected. The cost of depreciation was also $3.2 million lower than expected, due in part to asset revaluations, the report showed.
    Read more

    Report – FSD – 24/04/2013 (PDF, 44.2 KB)
    Waipori Fund – Report for Quarter Ending March 2013

  9. Hype O'Thermia

    “The Dunedin City Council is sitting on a more than $8 million operating surplus” – read no further! Buy shiny things!

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