Acklin denies contract conflict

Bill Acklin.
Bill Acklin.
A Dunedin city councillor sitting on the board of the New Zealand Masters Games insists he has followed correct procedures, after queries over a possible conflict of interest led to a review by the Office of the Auditor-general.

The review centred on whether Bill Acklin - a Dunedin city councillor and Masters Games trust board member - had a conflict after his company, Bill Acklin Entertainments, won a $40,000 contract to provide entertainment at the 2010 games in Dunedin.

It was the sixth time since 2000 Mr Acklin's company has won the contract.

Some of the contracts were tendered, but two - in 2004 and 2008 - were awarded without a contest.

Each contract was worth between $30,000 and $40,000 and was used to pay entertainers and cover their costs, with a share going to Mr Acklin.

Contacted yesterday, Mr Acklin said he had followed correct procedures throughout, including withdrawing from all trust debates and decisions relating to the games entertainment contract.

However, the Otago Daily Times has learned the success of Mr Acklin's company, coupled with his position on the games board, spurred a complaint to the Dunedin City Council by an unsuccessful tenderer late last year.

The same unsuccessful tenderer was also involved in an unseemly exchange with Mr Acklin and others on the last night of this year's 2010 New Zealand Masters Games in February.

The woman involved, Twilight Entertainments owner Beverley West, told the ODT she complained to the council last year, saying in her letter she was "at a loss to understand" Mr Acklin's continued success.

"It's a little bit annoying when you know you have got a really good line-up and it's just been passed over for something that's just Bill, Bill, Bill and Bill."

However, Mr Acklin - who also performs as part of the Masters Games entertainment - said the contract was awarded based on a scoring mechanism devised by the board without his input.

Tenders were called for, scored and the winner announced, and "names and favouritism and all that sort of thing were definitely not part of it", he said.

In previous years, when the council directly managed and funded the games, Mr Acklin's ability to tender was also pre-approved by the Auditor-general.

For the 2010 games, the use of a trust meant that was not a requirement, but was done anyway once Mr Acklin heard of the complaint, he said.

"I was checked through ... as to whether there was a conflict or not. They clarified there wasn't."

New Zealand Masters Games director John Bezett - also a city councillor - backed Mr Acklin, saying the process had been "absolutely squeaky clean" and the subject of a "quite rigorous" audit.

The small number of players in the Dunedin entertainment market meant appointments were "always problematic", but Mr Acklin's programme had been the best on offer, he believed.

"If there had been a better programme we would have gone with it."


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