OPINION: One only needs a nodding acquaintance with the Office of the Auditor General, (OAG) to know that as a body it does not provide any meaningful checks on local government.
All it does is check whether local government meets its reporting obligations and follows proper process.
It is not empowered to question council policy.
Here are eight things the OAG can't or won't comment on in its audit of the New Plymouth District Council:
Whether a 7 per cent rate cap is affordable;
Whether it is acceptable to have officers, not councillors, decide significance with no clear criteria;
Whether the council takes on projects that it shouldn't;
Whether the council has an acceptable public good test and assessment procedures;
Whether it uses the right tender assessment test in awarding contracts;
Whether it uses reserve funds properly;
Whether it is prudent to rebuild a collapsing investment fund ahead of paying off public debt;
Whether council spending is effective, efficient or economic.
Even in its narrow assessment of debt burden, the OAG considers only the indebtedness of the council, not ratepayer indebtedness.
So it will report that the NPDC's public debt is projected to rise to $174 million, but it will omit to say that, via council policy, each household is also liable for the Taranaki Investment Management Ltd funding gap ($116m), deficits in reserves (unreported) or that every household has agreed to underwrite the $835million (and rising) debt local government fund.
We all need the Government to do more to restrain local government, not less.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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