27 Mar 2013

Ministers share blame for faults in SkyCity process, MPs told

5:52 pm on 27 March 2013

The Deputy Auditor-General has contradicted the Prime Minister's claim that her report on SkyCity's bid to build an international convention centre cleared ministers of any blame.

Phillippa Smith had investigated the Government's decision to negotiate with SkyCity over the convention centre.

Her report found proper process had not been followed but Prime Minister John Key has said ministers were totally cleared by the report.

Ms Smith told Parliament's finance and expenditure select committee on Wednesday that both ministers and officials were at fault.

"The report is around procurement and the lack of appropriate process for what we regard as procurement, and clearly that was a matter in which both officials and ministers were involved."

Ms Smith confirmed that during the time expressions of interest were being sought ministers met with SkyCity to discuss how its bid could be improved.

She said the process was at fault because SkyCity got access to information not made available to other potential bidders.

PM's defence

Mr Key remains adamant he and fellow ministers were completely cleared by the report and he challenges Ms Smith's view ministers had been at fault.

"My meetings with Sky City and my engagement; they were covered in phase one of the report and they were totally vindicated."

Asked by Radio New Zealand if Ms Smith was right when she cleared him of inappropriate behaviour, Mr Key replied "Correct." To the rest of the question "but wrong when she said there were still deficiencies in the way ministers handled it", Mr Key replied: "She says there's deficiencies really around the process of officials and in my view you can debate that point."