A DoC spokesperson declined to answer questions about the contract outside of the OIA process. Photo/Michael Craig
A second government agency is reviewing the process by which it hired Ka Awatea Services, a consultancy company wholly owned by Gannin Ormsby, the husband of government minister Nanaia Mahuta.
In November 2020, the Department of
Conservation (DoC) signed a contract with the company to “examine how to shape and influence the way Rangatahi is integrated [young people] representation within Te Papa Atawhai [DoC] and seize opportunities to influence change…”
Sia Aston, deputy director general of public affairs for the DoC, confirmed that an internal review was underway to determine whether department processes and policies had been followed in relation to the contract worth approximately $52,000. $ (excluding GST). The contract was not fulfilled.
The DoC review began this month and Aston said the department aims to conclude its work by the end of October.
In May, the Department for the Environment (MfE) also undertook an internal review of the processes by which it appointed Ormsby and two of his relatives to a task force in 2020.
The total value of the contracts in this case was $90,000 (excluding GST). The report is complete and ministry officials said it will be released shortly.
A total of $11,800 (excluding GST) was paid to Ka Awatea Services under the DoC contract: consideration which, according to the contract document, was due “at signing”. No “deliverable” was required.
In response to written parliamentary questions from the National Party, Conservation Minister Poto Williams said the department had “engaged” Ka Awatea Services on June 11, 2019.
However, the written contract between the parties, released by the ministry under the Official Information Act, was signed about 17 months later.
A DoC spokesperson declined to answer questions about the contract outside of the OIA process.
It is not known why the balance of the contract was not fulfilled.
The deliverable “milestones” listed in the contract included: Articulating to the department’s Maori-linked unit, Kahui Kaupapa Atawhai, “rangatahi dynamic input [young people] can bring to Te Papa Atawhai [DoC]» ; the provision of a “regional register of rangatahi advisers”; the “proposal of an advisory model”; and “the identification and proposed models of rangatahi projects”.
Gannin Ormsby did not respond to requests for comment.
Minister Mahuta has never held ministerial responsibilities for the DoC.
On matters falling within his ministerial responsibility, a spokesperson for his office said: ‘Where there have been conflicts they have been disclosed to the Cabinet Office. Where there have been conflicts they are managed appropriately in accordance with the Cabinet Manual.”
Both the National and Act parties welcomed the review and called for a broader investigation into the recent history of government contracts and appointments made to Minister Mahuta’s family members and businesses owned by them.
Simeon Brown, national civil service spokesman, said he would like to see the Civil Service Commission investigate.
“This [DoC] contract is part of a broader framework of public procurement of services from someone married to a minister,” he said.
“We need to know that proper procurement processes have been followed and that conflicts of interest have been declared and managed appropriately.”
Act party leader David Seymour said: ‘Clearly there is an extraordinary pattern to this business [Ka Awatea Services] get a wide range of jobs in different departments, requiring different expertise, while qualifications are unclear. »
Seymour said the DoC contract raises the issue of value gained for public money spent.
A history of contracts and appointments
Also in 2020, government housing agency Kāinga Ora awarded Ka Awatea Services a contract worth $66,846 (excl. GST) to facilitate meetings and workshops to engage Maori and present a “high-level overview level” of the agency’s housing projects in Auckland.
Kāinga Ora manager Hinemoa Awatere said the contract was sole-sourced (meaning it was not subject to a competitive bidding process) for reasons such as the fact that the services could only be provided by one supplier.
Mahuta was at the time Associate Minister for Housing (Maori Housing). A spokesman for Kāinga Ora said the job was outside of Mahuta’s ministerial responsibilities.
Last month, a Mahuta spokesperson said: “The contract did not require ministerial approval, so no disputes arose.”
Awatere said there was no communication with ministers in the contract selection process and that “no conflict of interest has been identified”.
In contrast, the Department of the Environment identified ‘apparently major risk’ and a ‘perceived conflict of interest’ in the procurement documents when it appointed Gannin Ormsby, his nephew Tamoko Ormsby and wife from Tamoko, Waimirirangi Ormsby, to a waste advisory group in 2020.
The contracts were sole source and were worth $90,000 excluding GST.
The advice that MfE officials obtained from the Public Service Commission contained the view that being the Minister’s husband should not preclude his involvement in the work of the MfE, but that “a conflict of interest is present “.
The commission recommended a “robust management plan” and officials have put in place various measures, including regular meetings to discuss any potential risks as they arise and how to mitigate them.
Mahuta was Associate Minister of Environment at the time the contract was awarded, but his responsibilities did not include the area of work covered by the contract.
Questions posed to the Public Service Commission under the OIA show that MfE was the only government agency to have sought the advice of the commission in awarding contracts to Gannin Ormsby or his company.
Ka Awatea Services also received a $28,300 grant from the Department of Maori Development’s “Suicide Prevention” fund in April 2021.
Mahuta was then, and remains, the associate minister of the department. His ministerial responsibilities did not include the jurisdiction of the fund.
The funding application form, provided to the Herald in June by Gannin Ormsby, proposed Mahuta’s inclusion in the project (a three-day series of workshops, seminars and excursions for 40 young Maori).
Mahuta was on the project’s “proposed list” of four panelists, who would critique participants’ potential ventures and business ideas. The panelists would be paid $2,000 each to cover travel and koha costs for their time and the $8,000 cost would be covered by funding from the Maori Development Department, the application says.
A spokesman for Mahuta said, “The minister was not invited and did not attend the event.”
The application document also stated under “conflict of interest”: “Yes – Nanaia Mahuta is the wife of Ka Awatea director Gannin Ormsby and the aunt of the directors of Ka Awatea and Toa Taua Taiao [the project’s name] creators Tamoko and Waimirirangi Ormsby.”
In June, Ormsby said the project was successful and was overseen by his nephew, Tamoko Ormsby, and Tamoko’s wife, Waimirirangi Ormsby.
As part of the OIA, the Department of Maori Development has also published a ‘Funding Proposal Assessment’ document for the Ka Awatea project.
The document recommended that the ministry’s “investment sub-committee” fund the project. Under “conflict of interest”, it is stated: “No serious conflict of interest has been identified.”