Auditor-General's overview

Reviewing aspects of the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative.

The Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI) is a major programme of work to improve strategic transport links in Auckland's eastern suburbs. It involves improvements and changes to public transport and roads.

When fully in place, AMETI will affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of Aucklanders. If put in place effectively, AMETI should improve access to transport, increase transport choices, reduce congestion, and unlock economic potential.

AMETI consists of a set of projects that the former local authorities of Auckland and Manukau and the regional transport agency prepared. Now, the council-controlled organisation Auckland Transport is responsible for delivering AMETI. Auckland Transport estimates that AMETI will cost about $1.1 billion.

AMETI will not be fully complete until 2028. This means that AMETI's governors and programme managers will change many times. It is important that strong systems and processes support decision-making, sustain programme delivery, and help to build and maintain important strategic relationships.

I have reviewed Auckland Transport's governance, accountability, and programme management arrangements for AMETI as part of my mandate to review service performance under section 104 of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009. Good governance, accountability, and programme management are important in ensuring that services are delivered effectively.

Most of the governance, accountability, and programme management arrangements have been designed in a way that should help to deliver AMETI. The Board of Auckland Transport has approved the overall strategic purpose and delivery plan, and has set expectations and accountability requirements.

My review used two case studies to look at how the governance, accountability, and programme management arrangements helped to progress AMETI works – at Pakuranga Town Centre and near Mokoia Pā.

Progress with technical aspects – such as reaching design solutions, developing procurement options, and budget management – has been strong.

However, the way that Auckland Transport has dealt with AMETI's stakeholders has not consistently reflected the aspirations of Auckland Transport's communications and engagement strategy.

Auckland Transport's communications and engagement strategy for AMETI is based on good principles. These include being proactive, timely, frank, helpful, and detailed, and stakeholders having a right to have their views and concerns considered.

Many people told us that Auckland Transport had engaged with them well on the first stage of the programme, which included building a new train station at Panmure. However, engagement had not gone as well in progressing aspects of the second stage of the programme. Engaging with some stakeholders late and ineffectively led to problems.

I have made 12 recommendations to help Auckland Transport strengthen AMETI's governance, accountability, and programme management arrangements. Acting on these recommendations should reduce risks to the programme's future governance and programme management. Auckland Transport has already started to act on the recommendations, and I include its response in the Appendix to this report.

Several of my recommendations focus on AMETI's Programme Control Group. This group's responsibilities include approving strategies for projects, reviewing and managing programme delivery risks, reviewing costs and changes to costs, and reporting to Auckland Transport and Auckland Council.

Auckland Transport needs to ensure that the chairperson of the Programme Control Group is independent from day-to-day management of the programme. Auckland Transport also needs to ensure that members of the group clearly understand their roles and responsibilities, and have the collective capability to exercise them.

Good records are vital to keeping Auckland Transport's institutional memory of the programme, so that future members of the Board of Auckland Transport know why decisions were made. To improve record keeping, Auckland Transport needs to use more formal communication to keep Programme Control Group members up to date. All reporting to the Board of Auckland Transport should be formally recorded.

I recommend that Auckland Transport focus more on the health of relationships with stakeholders, on contractor performance, and on the benefits delivered to date, as part of monitoring and reporting on programmes.

Without paying more attention to the benefits being realised, Auckland Transport and Auckland Council can have only limited assurance about whether AMETI is on track to deliver value for money.

I thank the many people who helped my staff with this work, including the Board of Auckland Transport, Auckland Transport and Auckland Council staff, the New Zealand Transport Agency, the Ministry of Transport, the Maungakiekie-Tāmaki and Howick local boards, Ngāti Paoa, and local business representatives in Panmure and Pakuranga.

Signature - LP

Lyn Provost
Controller and Auditor-General

8 October 2015