CCOs or COCOs?

CCO is an acronym for Council Controlled Organisation, a new feature of the ‘super’ Auckland Council. We think that some of them could best be described as Council Out-of-Control Organisations, or COCOs for short.

For example, Auckland Transport (AT) employed 998 people in 2012. Two years later, the head count had ballooned to 1,265 – an increase of 28%. The number of employees earning more than $100,000 went from 221 to 325, an increase of 47.1% and the number of those earning more than $200,000 increased by 68.8%. The overall expenditure on salaries and wages went up by 29.7%, in those two years.

Another possible marker of profligacy is the increase in AT’s fleet of brand new, late model white SUVs, which appears to be growing along with the head count. Auckland is beginning to look a bit like Mogadishu or Port-au-Prince in the aftermath of a disaster, where the NGO-owned white SUVs are ubiquitous. These are simple markers of possible corporate excess that a competent professional company director could not fail to notice.

The theory of budget maximisation is well understood in the field of public policy. Powerful agencies aim to maximise their budgets through bargaining with weak, poorly informed governments. Over time, some checks and balances are developed. In central government, the plum jobs at the apex of the public service are the subject of fierce competition by well qualified aspirants. The State Services Commission in Wellington keeps that gateway. Embedded activists are not allowed in, just because they buy a new Armani suit. There is a degree of political oversight by professional politicians.

These checks and balances appear to be absent from the burgeoning bureaucratic empires being created in Auckland. It is well and truly party time in the head offices and boardrooms of some of the COCOs and other Auckland Council offices.

AT Cost Increases 2012-14Source: AT Annual Reports

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