The Guli transmission is now due to open at the end of next year. Photography / Mark Mitchell
The Auditor-General says both NZTA and its president have taken reasonable steps to manage conflicts of interest during the multimillion-dollar deal to settle Guli.
Prior to his appointment as Waza Kotahi NZTA President in June 2019, Sir Brian Roche was Director of the Wellington Portal Partnership.
The Guli Transmission is built through a public-private partnership, and the Wellington Portal Partnership is a private group of financiers and companies agreed to finance, design, build and manage the road.
Roche withdrew from the partnership when he was appointed to the board of Waka Kotahi.
The 27-kilometer four-lane highway was the subject of delays, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of neighborhoods and was accused of operating like a circus.
In February this year, NZTA agreed to pay $ 191 million in joint ventures following the 2016 Kaikura earthquake, and flooding at the same time.
Today, Auditor General John Ryan issued a public statement in response to correspondence received by his office, which raised questions about the settlement payment and how it handled the Roche conflict of interest.
During the work to decide whether an investigation into the deal was needed, NZTA announced that Roche had not been involved in any board discussions or decisions on the transfer of Guli during his first year as president.
The board minutes show that he stated his conflict of interest at the beginning of each meeting, and then he left the room while the issues were being discussed and resolved.
The other board members met during these periods.
NZTA also announced that it has strict measures to restrict Roche’s access to confidential information about the Guli broadcast.
The Auditor General cannot make a statutory decision as to whether someone has a conflict of interest or has acted appropriately in relation to a potential conflict.
However, the office has a strong interest in supporting good practice as it is considered an essential part of maintaining public confidence in the public sector.
“Based on what we have seen, including through our annual audit work, it seems that both Waka Cotahi and Sir Brian Roche have taken reasonable steps to manage Sir Brian’s conflict in anticipation of the $ 191 million agreement,” he said. Ryan.
After interviews, regular updates, review of documents and annual audit work, the Auditor General decided at this stage not to investigate further the settlement or the Guli Transmission project.
“Instead, we will continue to monitor developments with the project, including the outcome of the government review of the project, released in August 2020,” Ryan said.
That review was ordered the same day, and NZTA announced a second significant agreement on the problematic project.
In August, the Transport Agency announced that the opening of the Guli transmission would be postponed until September 2021, after the last round of negotiations was settled for $ 208.5 million.
The Infrastructure Commission oversees the immediate and wide scope of project review, with an independent expert reviewer appointed to carry out the work.
His range will focus on how the Transmission Gully project was awarded for the agreed price and whether it was really realistic.
The probe will also consider whether the identified risks were appropriate and properly considered.