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Auditor General criticizes the way Waikato University hired Steven Joyce

Steven Joyce

Steven Joyce.
Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The Auditor-General has criticized the way the University of Waikato hired former finance minister Steven Joyce without looking at other companies.

In an open letter to the university, Auditor General John Ryan said Joyce’s consultancy, Joyce Advisory, had received $1.1 million in public funding between 2019 and 2023.

“We understand that the contractor’s work is ongoing,” he said.

Public organizations were typically required to invite multiple contractors into the procurement process to ensure that public funds were spent responsibly.

But Ryan said the University of Waikato was not involved in a competitive procurement process and had communicated directly with Joyce.

“Where there has been a direct procurement like this, and it has cost over a million dollars of public money to date, we would expect to see a clear and documented reason for the services that were needed,” he said.

“That explanation and the assurance that it would give the public that public money has been spent appropriately is missing.”

He said the matter was a “useful reminder” for public organizations to be transparent when hiring contractors.

The University of Waikato said it accepted the Auditor-General’s comments.

“(We) will ensure that any future variations to university policies are reported to the University Council,” a spokesperson said.

“The university accepts that it is responsible for the expenditure of public money and for the results resulting from that expenditure.”

The spokesperson noted that the process used to originally hire Joyce Advisory in 2019 was “permitted under the University’s Procurement Policy and Independent Contractor Policy.”

But it promised to “provide additional documentation when future amendments are made to agreements with contractors, to ensure a robust reporting process is in place.”