$57,000 a week of rates goes to consultants
Do you agree with the Waikato Regional Council paying $9m in under four years to consultants?
Waikato ratepayers are stumping up on average more than $57,000 a week on consultants – with the regional council handing over $9 million in consultancy fees in less than four years.
Figures provided to the Waikato Times show the council hired consultants across a range of programmes, with $2.5m spent on environmental management advice and expertise since 2009.
In the same period, consultants have also billed the council $2.49m for advice and specialist skills relating to river and catchment services and $1.09m on expertise relating to regional development.
Overall, the council spent $2.97m on consultants last year and a further $703,319 in the first four months of 2012.
But the regional council's spending records stack up favourably compared to other regional bodies across the country.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council, which has 277,100 residents compared with Waikato's 390,100, spent $3.4m last year.
Greater Wellington Regional Council, with 473,700 residents, last year reported spending $22.1m on consultancy.
Waikato Regional Council chief executive Bob Laing said consultants were generally employed because they had expertise council staff did not have or the council could not justify employing a fulltime staff member with their particular skills set.
"We might use a consultant who has a specialist set of skills for three months so it wouldn't be cost-effective to employ them on a fulltime basis," Mr Laing said.
Consultants were also employed to provide independent advice, such as during the Whangamata mangrove removal process or the Home of Cycling Trust funding bid.
"The Whangamata mangroves was a very contentious issue and there were divergent views. By using independent people it meant those people who were critical of the council couldn't later lay criticism at our staff.
"There is a cost involved, but from the point of view of council decision-making it shows we have got the best and most independent advice."
Mr Laing said spending on consultants had been reviewed during every budget round.
He believed ratepayers were getting value for money.
"A very close eye is kept on consultancy fees because it doesn't take much for it to wind up to quite a considerable amount of money, Mr Laing said.
Consultancy spending had increased from $2.7m to $2.9m since 2009 "which is saying this area is very well scrutinised," he said.
"Consultancy fees represent less than 3 per cent of our budget so I think we're pretty well placed."
Horizons Regional Council, with 220,089 residents, spent $1.2m on consultancy costs for 2010-2011.
AT A GLANCE
Waikato Regional Council:
Consultancy fees: $2,973,517 (2011 calendar year)
Total operating expenditure: $94,274,000 (for the year ending June 30, 2011)
Bay of Plenty Regional Council: (for the year ending June 30, 2011)
Consultancy fees: $3,445,000
Total operating expenditure: $79,387,000
Horizons Regional Council: (for the year ending June 30, 2011)
Consultancy fees: $1,249,486
Total activity expenditure: $45,610,000
Greater Wellington Regional Council:
Consultancy fees: $22,149,000
Total operating expenditure: $207,057,000
- © Fairfax NZ News
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