Council payments to trust queried

A stadium opponent has questioned a series of historic administration cost payments from the Dunedin City Council to the trust in charge of the Forsyth Barr Stadium's development.

Bev Butler says it remains unclear what exactly the payments to the Carisbrook Stadium Trust (CST), mostly labelled ''trust costs'', were for.

The payments, ranging from $40,000 to $80,000 a month, were made between 2007 and 2011.

Mrs Butler said she had asked the council under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act for a copy of the third party invoices to support the payments to the CST, but the council responded on February 10 that it did not require individual invoices because there was an agreed schedule of payments intended to ''facilitate ease of administration''. A CST spokesman contacted yesterday said the paperwork was there and would be made available soon.

The council paid set monthly fees to CST for administration costs until Dunedin Venues Management Ltd was set up.

A budget showing the schedule of monthly payments itemises the payments as ''trust costs'', with no further detail.

The 2012 PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) review of the stadium also considered the same costs, which it classified broadly as ''trust and administration costs'' describing them in its report as fees for travel, marketing, staff, project planning, set-up, costs related to property purchase and other costs.

The schedule of payments was part of a report presented to the council and noted by it in February 2009.

The PwC report, which considered the council's handling of the stadium's development, noted it was not unsurprising CST was incurring such costs as staff were employed, marketing programmes were developed and under the Service Level Deed, CST, as the council's special agent, took significant responsibility for the project.

The budget was not considered in detail by the council and it was one of the areas of significant budget overrun within the stadium's cost.

A 2009 cashflow report suggested the total trust and administration costs for CST for the project should be $3.7 million, but in the end they were $5.4 million, the report said.

It highlighted and criticised process and budget issues in the administration costs area.

In his pre-election report to the council last year, then chief executive Paul Orders said the council accepted PwC's observations, including that lines of accountability were unclear, and lessons were learnt from it.

In any future project the council would make a stronger contribution to project management arrangements and have more oversight so it was better able to control costs and budget variations.

A council spokeswoman said the CST contacted the council yesterday and staff would work with the CST to go through relevant paperwork in coming weeks.

- debbie.porteous@odt.co.nz

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