New advice from the Auditor General shows AgResearch is playing fast and loose with taxpayer money, Labour’s Economic Development spokesperson David Clark says.
“Preliminary inquiries by the Auditor General Lyn Provost have found New Zealand’s largest Crown Research Institute lacks a compelling and up-to-date business case for a proposed restructure involving $100 million of taxpayer dollars.
“The report has found there were departures from standard business case practice, and that the 2012 business case - relied upon by AgResearch – needs to be rewritten.
“The Auditor General questioned the wisdom of a one-step business case process and warned that ‘public entities need to give careful consideration to their choice of the type of business case and associated process they use’.
“The report also reveals that many elements of effective project management were lacking at the time the business case was written, drawing particular attention to the size and scope of the project.
“It provides further evidence Steven Joyce has failed to exercise his public duty to ensure good governance and management of key risks at AgResearch.”
In responding to concerns raised by Labour MPs, the Auditor General visited AgResearch’s four main campuses.
“She refused to draw definitive conclusions about whether retention of key staff had been adequately managed until after a proposed shift to Lincoln in 2017. She did not investigate substantive conflict of interest concerns.”
The Auditor General’s advice was published in a letter written in response to concerns raised by Labour. In it she describes AgResearch’s Future Footprint restructuring project as “a large and relatively high-risk project that requires careful consideration and informed decision-making”.
“Sheep farmers across New Zealand, as well as scientists and local residents who have been campaigning for Invermay to be retained in the South, will find reason for hope in this letter from the Auditor General,” David Clark said.