Former Rodney Mayor Penny Webster has reacted angrily to a story that appeared in the Mahurangi Matters on November 1 (Aussie corruption watchdog raids office of ex-Rodney council boss).
“The story infers that I had some knowledge of the way the transport department at Rodney was being run, under Murray Noone and Barrie George,” Mrs Webster says.
“This was definitely not the case. Despite having no knowledge of what was going on, I have been tarred with the same brush.”
Mr Noone and Mr George were found guilty of bribery and corruption last year and earlier this year.
Mrs Webster pointed out that during her time as Mayor, she setup the Audit and Risk Committee specifically to oversee council operations.
“The aim was to keep an eye on the management of council procedures, and an important element of the committee was its independent make-up – with two trained auditors and one community member, overseen by the deputy mayor, who was the only politician on it.
“At no time were any complaints made to me in person or to the committee about the conduct of the transport department or any other department. We can only address issues if they are raised with us.”
Mrs Webster says that while on the National Council of Local Government in NZ, there was a genuine push to raise the standards so every council, large or small, had an Audit and Risk Committee, preferably with at least one independent member.
“I was also on the Audit and Risk Committee while on Auckland Council, which had two independent members. During the last term, we voted to ensure that the chair in the coming term would be independent.”
Mrs Webster says there are issues in local government, but elected representatives can’t always be over everything.
“For this reason, politicians have to rely on staff advice.”
She urges anyone who has any concerns about present council operations to raise them with the audit committee.
“It is the only way we can lift the game.”