Received Friday, 9 May 2014 at 12:00 p.m.
Submission to DCC Annual Plan 2014/15 by Bev Butler
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to my submission.
I would like to express my support for the stadium review announced a few months ago.
Due to concerns expressed by various members of the community, and my own growing concerns about the stadium issue, I decided to enquire into spending by DVML, through LGOIMA. It soon became clear that inappropriate spending had been occurring for some time within DVML eg hotel bills for up to $US350 per night etc. Purchase of boys t-shirts, gloves, hat, chewing gum and shaving gear. These are not business expenses. It is clear from some of the expenditure claimed that there is an ingrained sense of entitlement, which is unacceptable.
I understood that Council staff have been committed to curbing their budgets because of the debt problem and were unhappy to see the unbridled spending occurring within DVML. It wasn’t without its difficulties to obtain this information – DVML didn’t release it willingly. DVML treated the request as an imposition rather than an obligation. I was however – persuasive. Without the mechanism of LGOIMA requests some of this information may not have seen the light of day and hence steps made to address this wastage. It was reported in the ODT recently that DVML are now looking into charging for the future release of information. I believe this is a retrograde step: the purpose of acquiring official information is an important check on how public officers use public money or carry out their duties. Without it, unbridled corruption could occur.
Unfortunately for the Carisbrook Stadium Trust, they also operated inappropriately never dreaming that a group of citizens including myself would request information officially to expose their inappropriate spending. In fact, the former CEO, Jim Harland, informed me in 2008 that the CST was not subject to LGOIMA. What Mr Harland failed to tell me was that he had sought two legal opinions which both confirmed that CST was subject to LGOIMA through the DCC under section 2(6). To this day, Mr Malcolm Farry still shows considerable resistance to this and I have had to make several complaints to the Office of the Ombudsman. Mr Farry could have been prosecuted under the Ombudsman Act for his obstructiveness in releasing certain information should the Ombudsman have chosen to do so.
Why has this group of citizens continued to obtain information about the construction of the stadium? After all, it is now built and why don’t people just move on, as some say. I shall now explain why many people have not let go as would normally be expected.
Some may recall after the Christchurch earthquake there was a news item on TV1’s Close Up program. Shock and horror was expressed over invoices being sent to Christchurch residents for repair of their chimneys damaged in the quake. These invoices were for $2,000 and criticism was expressed at so little detail on these invoices. They just stated labour and materials $2,000. This was considered completely inappropriate invoicing and at the time there were questions of possible fraud.
Well, those quake invoices pale into petty significance compared with the CST invoicing. The CST presented millions of dollars worth of invoices to the DCC with merely two words on them: “Trust costs”. And, furthermore, this is after the Auditor General stated in his September 2007 report that no payments would be made to the CST without detailed invoices.
The former DCC Chief Financial Officer also sent me a letter in October 2007 stating that no CST invoices would be paid without third party invoices to support them. It was recently stated in an official information request that these third party invoices do not exist. In response, Mr Farry has now produced some paperwork, which the DCC is processing. This should have been done at the time and not retrospectively. When discussing this with a lawyer I said that the CST invoice process left the door wide open for fraud. The lawyer’s response was: “Not an open door, Bev, but a bloody great cavity!”
I emphasise that I am not saying that fraud occurred, what I am saying is the process was so flawed that no-one would know whether fraud had occurred or not. There is no statute of limitations on private or public fraud. According to the CST financial statements presented to the Charities Commission more than $71 million of public money went through this Trust. Every single dollar must be accounted for. Personally, I think it appalling that the process was so sloppy given that all the CST trustees are so-called top business people including two accountants. At best it shows the sheer arrogance of those trustees. I have also found other unexplained discrepancies in some of their financial reporting which I will deal with in another forum.
Another reason why a group of citizens are still investigating the stadium is because we believe criminal activity may have occurred.
So the issue is not whether you are pro or anti stadium but whether you are pro or anti corruption.
Outcomes from the stadium review
What I hope eventually comes out as a result of the stadium review includes:
1. A cost/benefit analysis of all the possible scenarios for the stadium including:
(a) Retaining the stadium under DVL ownership and DVML management
(b) Bringing the stadium “in house” under direct DCC ownership and management
(c) Privatising the stadium
(d) Mothballing the stadium until the private funding is raised as was promised by the CST prior to the stadium construction.
2. A cost/benefit analysis of the natural turf vs artificial turf .
3. An honest, full analysis of the entire stadium costs – by this I mean a report showing ALL annual costs of the stadium including DVML costs, DVL costs, DCHL costs (including from all the companies directly and indirectly). Ratepayers deserve an honest assessment – it won’t make ratepayers feel any better but at least we will know the full extent of the cost of the stadium. Many people think that the stadium costs Council just a million or two per year when in actual fact it is costing Council approximately $20 million per year overall, directly or indirectly. Ratepayers have a right to know. It is also very difficult to expect Council to make decisions when they are not presented with the full extent of stadium costs.
4. A formal request from the Council for the CST to front up with the three $1 million donations for construction which Mr Farry very excitedly announced in 2007. None of these donations have materialised nor has Sir Eion Edgar’s $1 million donation he announced in DScene in August 2009. A request for interest on late payment at market rates would also be appreciated.
5. A request for an increase in payment for naming rights from Forsyth Barr to keep it in line with what was initially promoted to Council by the CST’s agent The Marketing Bureau. Council was told naming rights were worth over $10 million but Forsyth Barr is only paying $5 million. Eion Edgar is trying to double count his $1 million ‘donation’ as being part of the $5 million naming rights. Naming rights are a corporate contract not a ‘donation’. As a trustee of a number of Charitable Trusts Sir Eion Edgar knows this. He can’t have it both ways.
6. A review of the Stadium Hire Agreement with the ORFU. David Davies, a former CEO of DVML, said ratepayers would be very angry if they knew what was in it – obviously this agreement is not advantageous to the ratepayer. So much so the ORFU are in a position where they only need to sell 200 tickets to break even.
7. No DVML staff should be working for the ORFU – ORFU is a private business and it is not up to the ratepayer to be subsidising the Union through providing staff support.
8. An assessment of the estimated substantial maintenance costs which are looming as reported in the DVML/DVL annual reports. Part of the projected $188 million (‘not one dollar more’) construction cost was a $6.4 million maintenance fund, which never eventuated, like the $45 million ($55 million including interest) in private funding for the construction lie.
Finally, the inappropriate spending, which occurred in the CST and continued through DVML when CST staff transferred to DVML, needs to be addressed. The community were provided with misleading information throughout the stadium construction but thankfully there is a democratic process in place which allows these matters to be exposed, to prevent this from happening in the future and bring those responsible to account.
Posted by Elizabeth Kerr