Veronica Harrod says the Horowhenua row over the sale of pensioner flats has ‘Echoes of the past.’
Veronica, who is KIN’s Horowhenua correspondent, says: ‘It was 19 November, 1990 when former Australian Labor Perth premier Carmen Lawrence announced her government’s intention to hold a Royal Commission to “inquire into certain matters”. This decision followed more than a year of strong public advocacy by the activist group, People for Fair and Open Government.
‘Advancing business dealings’
The subsequent 1991 Perth Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the Commercial Activities of Government and Other Matters found that state politicians, the equivalents of our local body politicians, were using the “commercial sensitivity” clauses of their version of the Local Government Act to meet with business industry leaders, the most well-known was Alan Bond, to advance business dealings in publicly-excluded sessions of council.
This demonstrates how much influence citizen groups can ultimately have when sufficient grounds are found for Crown intervention.
Which is why it’s strange how much offence has been taken by Horowhenua District Council chief executive David Clapperton over the use of the word “investigation” being used to describe enquiries the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) will ask Horowhenua District Council in relation to the sale of the council-owned pensioner housing and related potential conflicts of interest.
Shouldn’t he been keen to demonstrate he is committed to accountability and transparency? Shouldn’t he instead be putting out a press release saying he intends to co-operate fully with any “enquiries” made of him by the Office of the Auditor General?
But, no, this isn’t what he is doing. Instead Mr Clapperton is threatening two news organisations, so far, with legal action if they don’t immediately remove a story on the OAG questioning the council on the pensioner housing sale and related conflicts of interest.
FYI, Investigation commonly means, “the act of examining something carefully, esp. to discover the truth about it.”
How will the Horowhenua Council shape up?
The Office of the Auditor General has responsibility for the Members’ Interests Act which will no doubt measure how Horowhenua District Council shapes up when compared with “best conflict of interest” practice recommended by the OAG.
Whistle-blowers have some protection under the Public Disclosures Act although the Government is exploring greater protections for whistle-blowers, which it says it vital to enhance public and private sector service integrity.
The Office of the Ombudsman online site states, “Protected disclosures can be made to an appropriate authority if you reasonably believe: the head of the organisation is involved in the serious wrongdoing.”