Auckland Council has this week released detailed information about executive travel and spending across the council group.
This information was supplied to requestors under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.
Chief Executive Stephen Town says that while these were specific requests, the council is committed to transparency and accountability around sensitive expenditure.
“This information is clearly of interest to our ratepayers and the Auckland public and we are committed to increasing the release of information of this type.
“Council management has accepted the need to operate within the tighter travel budgets recently adopted by the council – we have made a commitment to deliver a 30 per cent reduction in the travel budget this financial year,” he says.
Travel undertaken by the Group Chief Finance Officer and Treasurer
Information released relates to overseas engagement with rating agencies and debt markets. The council’s Group Chief Finance Officer and Treasurer travelled to Australia, Asia and Europe to negotiate these agreements, often with other groups and facilitated by others.
The buying power of the parties booking the hotels means the council benefits from discounted room rates. Hotels are selected by the third parties for their conference facilities, central location and convenience for doing business, as meetings begin early, finish late, and staff pack in a full and thorough work programme. The expectations of their corporate partners and investors are also factored in when booking.
“These are important offshore discussions that help maintain a healthy relationship with rating agencies and to secure offshore debt – activities that help to reduce the cost of borrowing to the council group.
“For example, a reduction of just one basis point off of the council’s borrowing costs equates to a saving of $830,000 per year to ratepayers,” says Mr Town.
Unlike other councils, Auckland Council’s international borrowing programme is enabled by legislation passed specifically for Auckland Council. The legislation recognised the scale of borrowing that would be undertaken by Auckland Council.
“Our borrowing programme is viewed positively by the council’s credit rating agencies and is part of an overall funding strategy aimed at minimising long term interest costs for ratepayers while maintaining prudent diversification of funding sources,” he says.
Overseas travel and expenses incurred by executive team members (Auckland Council Group)
This response offers details and costings of all overseas travel, including an explanation for each trip, the class of air travel and costs incurred for members of the Auckland Council Group executive teams. It also includes general credit card expenses incurred by executive team members. This relates to the period November 2016-September 2017.
“Auckland Council group has strict policies for approving international travel, with a strong focus on the prudent use of ratepayers' money and on using the most cost-effective options available.
“This sentiment also applies to the use of credit cards, purchase cards and when making expense claims,” says Mr Town.
Further information about the council group travel policy can be found on OurAuckland.
The full LGOIMA responses are available for Overseas Travel by Group Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer (PDF) and Overseas Travel and Spend Information (PDF).