Auckland pays consultants $800k for Council agencies review

22 January 2020 3 min. read

New information on the hourly rates of consultants working on the Auckand Council Agency Review has reignited debates around exhorbitant consulting fees and accountability in the professional services space. The overall review is set to cost up to $800,000.

A trio of consultants was appointed late last year to conduct a thorough review of five agencies controlled by the Auckland Council, termed in the agreement as council-controlled organisations (CCOs). The five agencies – Auckland Transport, Watercare, Panuku Development, Regional Facilities Auckland and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) – constitute 55% of all activity at the council.

The three consultants are Miriam Dean, Doug Martin and Leigh Auton. Dean is a legal expert with nearly four decades of experience in the commercial dispute resolution space, and more than two decades of working in the domain of governance. Martin is the founder and owner of MartinJenkins, a boutique consulting firm with expertise in research, economics and public policy.

Auton is also active in the consulting space, operating as the Director of Auton & Associate, a consulting firm that offers advice on strategic thinking in the governance and executive leadership space. Auton is working alongside Dean and Martin to examine the effectiveness of the CCOs and make recommendations, a process that is expected to conclude in July this year.

Auckland pays consultants $800k for review of Council agencies

The review is in part a response to criticism of CCOs, with many arguing that they lack a sufficient accountability framework. At present, the accountability framework consists of annual agreements with the council, as well as quarterly and monthly meetings with government offices including that of the Mayor. Dean, Martin and Auton are currently assessing where and how this framework could be improved.

Reporting by Stuff has revealed that Dean is receiving $350 per hour for her work, while Martin and Auton each receive $300. According to Auckland Council, these hourly fees are discounted “to reflect the public service nature of the review.”

Nevertheless, the information’s diclosure and the $800,000 final bill has reignited the perennial debate surrounding government expenditure on consultants. This expenditure has often been described as excessive, driving some government agencies to declare their intentions to cut back on consulting expenditure.

In this context, the expensive review has been criticised for its lack of apparent utility to some extent. As expressed by Manurewa-Papakura ward councilor Daniel Newman, “real reform starts with winding up Regional Facilities Auckland, Panuku Development and ATEED,” and not with time and money intensive review processes.