|Raf Manji and Lianne Dalziel: Wasting money on asset sales 'advice'.|
The Christchurch City Council paid nearly half a million dollars for 'advice' on selling its assets. This week it announced the sale of City Care had been cancelled because it had received just one offer - and that had not met the council's asking price. So that was $500,000 well spent then....
IT WAS IN MARCH THIS YEAR THAT Green Party MP Eugenie Sage commented on the rather large amount of money the Christchurch City Council was paying Wellington-based firm Cameron Advisers for what the council described as 'advice' on asset sales. That advice didn't come cheap - the council forked out nearly a half a million dollars.
The exact figure paid was $455,391 excluding GST, for work completed between March and the end of June, 2015 . Nice work if you can get it.
Eugenie Sage observed: "Asset sales are a major transfer of wealth from the public to the private sector. The fees show that investment brokers and advisors are also major beneficiaries of a privatisation process."
Despite the Christchurch City Council having generously forked half a million dollars for the 'special talents' of Cameron Advisers, the sale of City Care has now been cancelled. That's not because Mayor Lianne Dalziel and councillors like finance committee chairperson Raf Manji have suddenly recanted their market beliefs but simply because the council received only one offer for its construction and maintenance division and that offer was considered to be inadequate.
So, thanks to more neoliberal lunacy , half a million dollars has been squandered trying to sell a council asset that the local community were opposed to selling and that did not need to be sold in the first place.
Indeed opponents of the sale all said it was lunacy to rush into asset sales when the council's earthquake insurance claim had yet to be settled - so the council simply had no idea what its true financial position was.
That argument was rejected by Raf Manji, who likes to think of himself as a bit of a financial whizz kid and not swayed by lefty-type thinking. This week, without a trace of embarrassment, he told the media that the sale had been cancelled because 'the council's financial position was better than expected". Why was the council's financial position 'better than expected' - largely because it had received, in Manji's own words "a higher than expected insurance payout".
After this fiasco it would be entirely reasonable for Raf Manji and his fellow privateers to just shut up about asset sales. But such is their ideological zealotry that they have not ruled out asset sales in the future - which, of course, would occur conveniently after the local elections in October.
To finally bring this lunacy to an end what is needed is a new mayor and a new council that will actually listen to what the community is saying and not sell off the silverware.