by Christopher Ruthe

kin cartoon guruThe Kapiti Mayor, in a letter last month halting the issuing of a crucial report into the inefficiencies of the KCDC killed it off as the Mayor is too busy to be Transparent.

Openness and transparency were the big promises of mayoral election candidate Guru. But once elected, those commitments went. Prior to the last election in 2019 the Council voted for an independent review to be undertaken into the workings of the KCDC bureaucracy.

The MartinJenkins Review final report was due to be released. Mayor Guru unilaterally stopped the Review team last month issuing it.

He said that the MartinJenkins report would be a “distraction” for staff, many of whom have been personally affected by Covid-19 and Level 4 lockdown. He says they are all busy working on the post lockdown era.  One would have thought the MartinJenkins report was a vital necessity in ensuring staff goes about its business efficiently. Apparently, for KCDC staff learning better ways is a mere distraction.

To quote the lofty words of Guru: “I am of the personal opinion that receiving your report during these troubled times would be an unnecessary distraction for Council from the considerably higher priorities that we are facing as civic leaders.”

Worrying is the apparent failure of any councillor to stand up and object to the  dictatorial actions of the Mayor. It was the Council that voted for the Report. Any Council worth its salt would demand that the report that they have paid for be issued. It is the Mayor who has indicated he has kept the councillors informed, and one always believes one’s leaders.

All appear to be too frightened to rock the boat. Why would any councillor allow the Mayor to unilaterally stop the report? The Mayor’s e-mail letter to Martin Jenkins said in part:

“ I am now issuing new instructions to you as the Project Lead in respect of the Martin Jenkins Independent Organisational Review.  Those instructions are:

“1.     Do Not provide me with your final report.”

“2.       Note that I will:
a.       contact you when I consider it appropriate to receive your report;
b.       still require you, at a future date and time, to personally brief Council on your report recommendations – the cost of which falls within the contracted budget;
c.       inform the Review Manager, Sharon Foss that upon your emailed response accepting these new instructions that I am satisfied that the organisation can make the full and final payment to MartinJenkins.  Sharon will process that payment and also ensure that the KCDC website reference to the Review is updated accordingly.
d.       inform the Elected Members of my decision.
e.       inform the Chief Executive of my decision. “

Did the Council vote to make the report personal to the Mayor for his information alone? I have checked the Council record and can find no such Council resolution being passed. What was in the draft that has the Mayor shutting down vital information?

More worrying is the implied threat — Martin Jenkins will get paid only if the report is not issued.

“[I will] inform the Review Manager, Sharon Foss that upon your emailed response accepting these new instructions that I am satisfied that the organisation can make the full and final payment to Martin Jenkins.”

In other words: “shut up and I will pay you. Open your mouth and you will not get paid.” All councillors have had a copy of these rather outrageous instructions and seemingly not a single feather has been ruffled among their collective heads. Is this the new morality post Covid-19?

The Mayor’s justification is the extraordinary extra work Covid-19 has caused. Guru suggests the belief that virtually all council services have been closed or severely pared back is a myth; council and staff have never worked so hard as in lockdown. If this is in fact the case, it makes it even more urgent that this report be published forthwith. Any reasonable ratepayer would think that if staff are too busy while under lockdown with little to do, there must be something wrong with KCDC’s systems.

Many will now be finding rates hard to pay in the worst recession since World War 2. Ratepayers should be assured their scarce money is being properly spent. Forget the puffery, the political polish — give us the facts. Publish. Be transparent.

MartinJenkins have a good reputation for being brutally honest, so what in their draft report did Guru not like?  An Official Information request was sent to Chief Executive Mr Maxwell on 2 May and the reply will be posted on here.