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Reporting from Auckland
Engineering consultancy company director, Stephen Borlase, and Rodney District Council Infrastructure ‘Director’ [Manager] Murray John Noone, have been found guilty of bribery under section 105 of crimes act, and will be sentenced in February.
The case has taken three years to come to court. Noone fought hard for name suppression in 2015, despite being named in prior media coverage.
Borlase’s company Projenz was put into liquidation on Friday 16th December 2016, also affecting directors & shareholders Craig Payne and Scott McIntyre.
Another council officer, Barrie George, earlier pleaded guilty to corruption after receiving $200,000 from prominent roading contractor HiWay Stabilisers. He was sentenced to 9 months’ home detention. Barrie has also been a prosecution witness.
The investigation uncovered evidence of considerable largesse from Projenz to all of Noone’s former roading department, in the form of extravagant lunches & gifts.
Julie Read of the Serious Fraud Office stated: "It appears that within the road maintenance division during this period the acceptance of gratuities was considered the norm. All of us need to recognise that corrupt activity is at risk of gaining momentum if business turns a blind eye."
David Warburton, CEO of Auckland Transport, said the case was not indicative of wider issues in the department. This appears to be contradicted by the evidence presented in court, and the brash statements of Borlase., This has been a wake-up call to the council to re-evaluate its internal assessments.
As the judge succinctly pointed out, it is an offence to accept gifts connected with official duties.
New Zealand Herald’s Matt Nippert spent considerable time at the 8-week trial. Representative articles include Court hears of council staff's four-figure lunches and Council manager guilty of majority of corruption charges.
TINZ’s role is to promote changes in systems and processes that prevent corruption and strengthen integrity systems, rather than concentrating on individual cases. TINZ is working with Local Government New Zealand, the Auckland Council and local governments throughout New Zealand to promote transparency, integrity and accountability. We are lucky that behaviour like this is not normal, is unacceptable and clearly illegal in New Zealand. Just the same, that it occurs at all is unacceptable as it is another chink in this country’s reputation for integrity and as such risks harm to everyone.