Rival rues council company’s related party deals

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Controversy continues over Queenstown’s Lakes Leisure handing big business to a firm co-owned by a director of the council company. 

Jane Bamford (right) of Queenstown firm Addstaff is “disappointed” after Mountain Scene revelations last week of Lakes Leisure business handed on a plate to rival Queenstown Job Agency. The Job Agency is half-owned by Lakes Leisure director Wayne Evans. 

Bamford tells Mountain Scene: “We’re disappointed because if it’s a council-owned business, we’d have liked the opportunity to have a go at it. 

“If it’s a publicly-owned company, a company all ratepayers have an investment in, [Lakes Leisure] has to be transparent,” she adds. 

Mountain Scene spotted the related party transactions buried in Lakes Leisure’s annual report. 

The Job Agency received $129,474 of temporary-staffing work from Lakes Leisure during the council company’s 2012 financial year – without tenders, contracts, quotes or contestability, Lakes Leisure chairman Peter Faul has conceded. 

Last week’s revelations also showed Addstaff gets only crumbs from Lakes Leisure – $8400 over two years – compared with the Job Agency’s big bread. 

“We used to do a lot of work with [Lakes Leisure] – and suddenly we didn’t,” Bamford says, adding Lakes Leisure’s work was “significant”. 

Evans was appointed to Lakes Leisure’s board by the council half-way through financial year 2012 and Faul says his conflict of interest was “declared from the outset”. 

Evans himself says he’s deliberately “distanced” himself from the Job Agency and has no participation other than his directorship and half-share. 

Before Evans joined, Lakes Leisure was already giving big business to the Job Agency – $112,000 in financial year 2011. 

While Evans and his Job Agency appear to have declared the conflict correctly, the revelations call into question Lakes Leisure’s governance. 

Faul concedes Lakes Leisure didn’t introduce a new policy for Job Agency transactions when Evans joined and belatedly says new governance procedures reflecting “the quantum of that relationship” may be needed, including approaching Job Agency competitors. 

Lakes Leisure’s procurement policy is being “reviewed”, Faul has confirmed. 

That’s music to competitor Bamford’s ears: “We’d like a slice of the pie and we’d welcome that opportunity.” 

While pleased the Lakes Leisure-Job Agency relationship has received public scrutiny, Bamford says: “I don’t want this to turn into a catfight. 

“If LL want to stick with [the Job Agency] that’s fine, it’s just a shame we haven’t had the opportunity [to pitch until now]. 

“It would be a great opportunity for us if we could have a shot at getting that business back – definitely,” Bamford says.