13 Aug 2020

NZTA leaked report reveals high-level failings, conflicts of interest

11:33 pm on 13 August 2020

A leaked report has revealed serious, high-level failings in how the Transport Agency awarded major IT contracts.

business documents accounting with calculator, pen, glasses and magnifying glass. concept for financial

Photo: 123RF

The agency has been forced to admit this today by the leaking of the report - to media organisation Newsroom - after RNZ fought unsuccessfully for more than a year to have it released.

It reveals that for four years till 2018 there was:

  • Undeclared and unmanaged conflicts of interest by a senior manager
  • Development and funding of products which were not fit for purpose
  • Failure to follow established procurement processes and an extensive disregard for proper financial management practices

The agency has still not released the report, but put out a statement saying "the practices identified in the review are entirely unacceptable, and significant changes have been made in response to the report's recommendations".

It has treated the report as confidential since it sent the case to the Serious Fraud Office last October.

When RNZ asked in May if it had referred this to the SFO, NZTA refused to say; in refusing RNZ's requests since July 2019 it has relied on the grounds it could jeopardise legal proceedings.

The agency said in a statement today that the independent inquiry had found a senior manager had major conflicts of interest over awarding contracts to develop safety apps.

The manager, Martin McMullan, was the subject of other internal investigations stretching back several years.

These centred on his involvement in awarding contracts, including to a friend, and faulted his conduct.

Nevertheless, he rose to head up NZTA's high-tech wing that employed scores of contractors but was shut down quickly when the fiasco came to light in early 2019, leaving dozens of poorly planned and unfinished but crucial IT projects in its wake.

Today, NZTA said it had fixed all the problems, calling them "historic".

"Waka Kotahi has implemented wide-ranging changes to rectify the issues identified by these investigations, including introducing significant structural and procedural changes to prevent the issues from recurring," it said.

It refused to detail the recommendations in the leaked report, though the report was finished in mid-2019, and has been sought by RNZ since then.

NZTA told RNZ it had implemented 18 out of the 20 recommendations in it, though it remains unclear what those recommendations were.

The agency said the improvements included introducing better conflicts of interest management, and spot checks on the Companies Register.

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