Council denies it has favourite consultants
The Christchurch City Council says it does not keep a list of "favoured" consultants on whom to call.
However, it does have arrangements with what it calls "preferred advisers" and admits some involve "preferential hourly rates".
The council has been criticised by some councillors and others for running a closed shop when allocating contracts.
At a fiery meeting last month, Cr Tim Carter raised concerns about the "lack of an open process" to determine who would get contracts for the central city plan.
His stand was backed by Crs Jimmy Chen, Jamie Gough, Yani Johanson and Glenn Livingstone.
The council has now responded to an Official Information Act request from The Press following that meeting which asked for a list of its "favoured consultants".
In the response, legal services manager Chris Gilbert said the council did not hold a list of favoured parties.
"However, council does have arrangements with consultants.
"The only list we have of such consultants/suppliers is the fact that they are registered as `approved vendors' in the council's ... accounting system. `Approved vendors' are not considered `favoured consultants' by council.
"Any engagement of a consultant-supplier does not preclude council from engaging other consultants-suppliers," Gilbert said.
The council had contracts with several legal firms "as preferred advisers".
The panel – comprising Simpson Grierson, Buddle Findlay, Anderson Lloyd and Goodman Tavendale Reid – had been set up in accordance with Audit Office guidelines.
"This group does not have exclusive right to undertake council legal services. Council may and has frequently used other legal firms as circumstances require."
A transport services consultants' panel had also been established after being openly advertised and endorsed by the New Zealand Transport Agency, Gilbert said.
That group included Opus, Beca Infrastructure, Aecom, GHD, Traffic Design GP and URS NZ.
"There are other consultants who are frequently engaged by council because council has established preferential hourly rates or standing agreements, or who have over time demonstrated that they have the track record, skills and experience to meet council's requirement and deliver best value," Gilbert said.
Carter said the response did nothing to stop him feeling "deeply concerned" about the council's appointment of consultants.
"I believe that the administration is avoiding answering these legitimate questions about the appointment of consultants from this favoured list.
"I have repeatedly asked these questions and have experienced the same blocking tactics. It should not be this difficult to obtain answers to these simple questions and makes me wonder what else is being hidden."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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