America’s Cup funding: Team New Zealand issues ‘public condemnation’ of ministry, as part of document release

Team New Zealand has issued a “public condemnation” of the government department which is providing it tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer funding, accusing it of inappropriate behaviour and calling for another review.

The syndicate today released a series of documents including letters to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as well as Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

America’s Cup Event, a company run within Team New Zealand’s base which shares Grant Dalton as its chief executive, has been awarded up to $40 million of taxpayer funding to put on the 36th running of the world’s oldest international sporting competition.

Earlier this year MBIE launched an investigation into ACE’s handling of the money, partly as a result of allegations made by whistleblowers, former contractors Mayo & Calder.

“In the face of further defamatory and baseless allegations again being levelled at ETNZ/ACE and its directors we feel that we must now set the record straight having tried to respect a due process in this saga all year,” Team New Zealand said in an unsigned statement.

“We have wanted to avoid such a public condemnation of MBIE but given their moves to conceal their totally inappropriate behaviour through this protracted contractual process, we now feel obliged to release a suite of letters addressed to MBIE and ministers which call MBIE to account for their actions.”

According to Team New Zealand “these letters paint quite a different story than that currently being presented”.

The Herald today reported that the Serious Fraud Office appeared to be looking at taxpayer funding of the America’s Cup.

MBIE earlier confirmed that its chief executive, Carolyn Tremain, has had “discussions” with the director of the SFO, Julie Read. The SFO confirmed the discussions. Neither side would elaborate on who initiated the discussions.

Team New Zealand’s statement repeated comments made to the Herald that it “would welcome the intervention of the Ombudsman or Public Services Commission to look at MBIE’s actions through this protracted process”.

In a statement, MBIE chief executive Caroline Tremain said after receiving allegations about matters at ACE, the ministry “used the contractual provisions of the Host Venue Agreement to engage Beattie Varley to undertake an audit”.

Tremain noted Horton’s comments that ACE’s initial approach to the audit was unhelpful.

“MBIE has at all times treated all parties involved in the process with due respect and strongly refutes many of the issues raised in the letter(s) from ACE,” Tremain said.

She revealed that the mediation that had been initially announced would cover the dispute over a $3m design fee had been broadened to cover “issues of the parties acting in good faith”.

The mediation is finally expected to start in December. “MBIE looks forward to the conclusion of this process.”

In August, an audit report by forensic accountants Beattie Varley – which was commissioned by MBIE – sharply criticised governance at ACE and Team New Zealand, but concluded investigators had not seen evidence that event funding from taxpayers had been misapplied.

In July, Team New Zealand and ACE went to the High Court in Auckland to prevent the Herald from publishing details of an earlier Beattie Varley report.

Team New Zealand chairman Sir Stephen Tindall described the final Beattie Varley report as “total vindication”.

He has declined to answer questions or be interviewed.According to a report by Stuff, Tindall telephoned MBIE chief executive Carolyn Tremain to ask her about the nature of her discussions with the SFO, but she refused to say.

ACE chairwoman Tina Symmans has also declined all interview requests.

No one from the Government has been prepared to comment on the recent reporting, with a spokeswoman for Ardern saying it was being handled by MBIE.

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