Another Day, Another Name Suppression; and Perception Management



New Zealand has a low perception of corruption

Another day, another case of name suppression in New Zealand.

Today, in an article which doesn’t mention the C word (is that in case perceptions are altered? Ed) , the NZ Herald tells its readers

Name suppression continues for a former Auckland Transport official accused by the Serious Fraud Office of receiving bribes totalling more than $1 million, pending a High Court appeal.

Judge Pippa Sinclair last week rejected an application by the man in North Shore District Court for continued interim name suppression, ruling that any hardship he might suffer from being identified would not be extreme, and would be outweighed by significant public interest in the case.

But she extended the suppression order until 4pm (today) after the man’s lawyer, Paul Wicks QC, said he intended appealing to the High Court against her decision…

The man has pleaded not guilty to six charges of accepting bribes from engineering projects management company Projenz (2005) over more than five years to mid-2013, and has been remanded to reappear in the district court on August 6, as have co-defendants Barrie Kenneth James George and Stephen James Borlase

However, the SFO isn’t afraid to use the C word. It alleges that a culture was developed within the road maintenance division in which

the acceptance of gratuities was part and parcel of the working environment”.

“The SFO is committed to preventing corruption from taking root through investigating and prosecuting offending in the public or private sector. This is an important aspect of protecting New Zealand’s reputation as a safe place to invest and do business and to allow our economy to prosper.”

In April 2014 the NZ Herald wrote

Auckland Transport is pursuing tens of thousands of dollars in disputed payments after a long-running investigation. Communications manager Wally Thomas confirmed it is “in discussion with external parties” about recovering the funds.

The Serious Fraud Office is refusing to say if it is any closer to laying charges as the first anniversary of the case approaches. Last August, Auckland Transport said it was investigating “allegations relating to the potential misuse of public monies” in its road contracts division.

Senior managers, Murray Noone and Barry George, left Auckland Transport as the Serious Fraud Office also launched an investigation.

Another website reported in Oct 2013

Auckland Transport has already announced it has dismissed a senior manager for “serious conflict of interest and performance issues”. The manager has since been identified as its former road maintenance manager, Murray Noone.

Mr Noone, who was previously head of infrastructure for Rodney District Council, has admitted running his own private consultancy but has denied doing anything illegal.

Another former Rodney manager, maintenance contracts manager Barry George, has also recently left Auckland Transport. There has been no suggestion that Mr George was pressured to leave, but that has not stopped Cr Wayne Walker from questioning the culture at Rodney District Council.

Cr Walker says he complained for years that there was “something not right” about the Council’s contracting processes. He says he is now confident that any wrong-doing will come to light.

From another report dated 29 April 2015, we learn that

Auckland Transport’s former northern roading maintenance contracts manager, Barrie Kenneth James George, 68, faces four charges of bribery for alleged offences since late 2005. He declined to seek name suppression but would not comment outside court.

George, an engineer employed by the Rodney council from 1974 until its roading responsibilities were taken over by Auckland Transport in late 2010, is alleged to have received payments from Projenz of travel, accommodation and other benefits not only for himself but also for his family and colleagues in both public bodies.

He is also alleged to have accepted such benefits on behalf of colleagues’ families as well as entertainment and hospitality for employees of both Auckland Transport and the Rodney council.

Borlase, who founded Projenz in 1997, said in his statement that the company’s marketing budget had all been “lawful, open and fully accounted for.”…

Borlase said, in a media statement dated 30 April

“…the SFO alleges that payments have been made to employees of these local bodies in return for them awarding contracts for professional services to my company, or influencing the awarding of such contracts. Not only do I deny the claims, I am completely confident that no inappropriate or unlawful payment has been made by my company. All the marketing budget for the company has been lawful, open and fully accounted for.

I consider it is normal business practice for a company to foster good relationships with clients and potential clients through marketing. However no marketing has ever included any express or implied insistence of any kick back or contract award. I find this suggestion offensive.

As a qualified engineer with 25 years experience in project planning and managing significant infrastructure projects in New Zealand and overseas, most recently as managing director of Projenz (2005) Ltd, this is the first time there has been any questioning of my business practices and interaction with clients.

I hope the business community takes a keen interest in this concerning case, as I consider my company’s behaviour and business practices to be common and widespread, and have long been accepted as normal and lawful.

Pending resolution of this legal action, I have decided to step aside from the day-to-day running of the company to protect its good name and reputation. I hope this is understood and accepted as the responsible thing to do.

I have instructed my lawyer, Ron Mansfield, not to apply for name suppression. I consider that I have nothing to hide or to be ashamed of. I am confident that my position will be shown to be appropriate and lawful. I look forward confidently to that day.

Wikipedia describes corruption thus:

In philosophical, theological, or moral discussions, corruption is the abuse of bestowed power or position to acquire a personal benefit. Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement. Government, or ‘political’, corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official official capacity for personal gain.

But search the Herad’s article and you won’t find the word used. Is this because NZ’s MSM has an embargo on the word? Its no wonder that the perception of corruption is low in New Zealand.


Conflict of interest fear – Auckland man had private links…

An Auckland Transport manager has been sacked after running a private consultancy while raking in a ratepayer-funded salary. Former roading maintenance manager Murray Noone could face criminal charges after an internal investigation found “serious conflict of interest and performance issues”.

He was also operating his own consultancy, Preside Consulting, formerly MJ Noone Consulting, while working for public bodies…

In 2013, a former North Shore City Council employee was jailed for signing off more than 150 invoices for road and berm maintenance. Hemant Kumar Maharaj and Suresh Din were sentenced for corruptly obtaining public funds from North Shore City Council. Maharaj was jailed for two years and 10 months and Din was sentenced 10 months’ home detention and 350 hours of community service following a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) prosecution.