NZ government set to clinch SkyCity deal
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WELLINGTON, Feb 19 AAP
February 19 2013, 2:19PM
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says the auditor-general's office has "totally vindicated" the tender process for a national convention centre and the government is going to close the deal with SkyCity.
NZ Deputy Auditor-General Phillippa Smith, in her report on the tender process released on Tuesday, identifies numerous deficiencies but concludes there are no "inappropriate considerations" influencing the deal.
Mr Key says Ms Smith's report "totally refutes" allegations by the Greens and Labour that SkyCity was given unfair preference.
"It clears the way to close the deal, absolutely, and it's a good deal for New Zealand," he said.
"It will be an international facility, 1,000 construction jobs and 800 to 900 when it's operating - at no cost to the taxpayer."
The Green Party, which asked for the inquiry, rejects Mr Key's interpretation of the report.
"The government is not vindicated, John Key is not vindicated," co-leader Metiria Turei said.
"Other bidders were kept in the dark ... John Key might not have said `give the deal to SkyCity' but he did everything but that."
Labour leader David Shearer says there's clear evidence SkyCity was given an unfair advantage.
"The prime minister's claim that he's been `totally vindicated' is an insult to the intelligence of New Zealanders," he said.
"This is a shonky deal and Kiwis know he was donkey deep in the entire process - the deal with SkyCity was his idea, he knew exactly what was going on and he pulled the strings."
The inquiry looked at the process the Ministry of Economic Development followed in 2010 when it chose SkyCity to build the $NZ350 million ($A290.08 million) Auckland centre, in exchange for a law change allowing up to 500 more pokie machines in its casino.
The report says there were a "range of deficiencies" in the advice provided to the government, and in the steps taken leading up to the decision to enter negotiations with SkyCity.
Although officials worked in good faith to evaluate the government's options, the auditor-general's office found the process was "unsatisfactory" and fell short of good practice.
By Peter Wilson and Laura McQuillan