Carterton District Council’s town clock. PHOTO/FILE

“It beggars belief that an organisation would proceed on projects without project management 101 in place.”

These were the words of Carterton councillor Dale Williams regarding an independent review of two major council projects.

The review of the clocktower and wastewater treatment pond projects was discussed at Thursday’s Audit and Risk Committee meeting, with several councillors making bold statements in support of the findings.

The review by Calibre Consulting found failures in project planning and made several recommendations to improve the delivery of future council projects.

It came after contractor issues and significant delays in the clocktower and wastewater treatment pond projects.

The original clocktower project budget of $277k was also blown, and it ended up costing $667k to strengthen and paint the earthquake-prone structure.

The wastewater treatment ponds programme was still under way.

Calibre Consulting identified 16 issues with the clocktower project process and nine with the wastewater treatment ponds.

The issues included poor record-keeping and poor project control.

Among their eight recommendations was that the council should train staff and management in basic project management and procurement procedures, ensure the council has a robust central filing system and reporting process, and develop a business case procedure for all projects.

Williams, the first to comment on the review, said the report made for “disappointing reading”.

“Contracts go awry, but to proceed on projects like this without those principles in place, I find incredible.

“The principles of project management haven’t changed ever.

“It beggars belief that an organisation would proceed on projects without project management 101 in place.”

Williams suggested that installing his home swimming pool had ticked more project management boxes than the council.

He also said a previous internal review of the projects was “a waste of the paper it was written on”.

This previous internal review stated: “It is somewhat difficult to identify any recommendations in regard to the procurement process as the writer believes the process was robust and undertaken to a good standard.”

Councillor Steve Cretney said elected members needed to be able to ask hard questions about projects without “being told we are overstepping the line between management and governance”.

He said the projects had been “extremely costly to us as a council” but believed the council was now “on a very good steer”.

There was general agreement that, had the council known the clocktower project would cost $667k instead of $277k, the community may not have wanted it to proceed.

Mayor Greg Lang said there were learnings that the council needed to take on board.

Deputy Mayor Rebecca Vergunst and councillor Brian Deller shared similar sentiments.

Councillor Robyn Cherry-Campbell said the report was “disappointing, but it wasn’t unpredictable”.

“We have a new chief executive, a fairly new executive leadership team, and that brings more experience in project management.

“I think it’s great we’ve got this report.

“I’m not into pointing fingers of blame; what’s done is done.”

Councillor Jill Greathead agreed the report was not surprising.

“Reading this is the moment of truth.

“These two projects have been like a black cloud on us.

“We know things have been going wrong, but we didn’t know how to go about it.

“It would be better if we were encouraged to ask these hard questions.

“Many people have known what’s been going on, and they feel as if they haven’t been heard.”

The committee’s independent chair Philip Jones moved that the council’s chief executive Geoff Hamiltion “bring a report to full council on the assessment of the key recommendations contained within the Calibre Consulting report on proposed actions, including assessment and reporting of risk”.

This was seconded by Cherry-Campbell and passed unanimously. — NZLDR

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