A report seeking a 600 per cent fee increase for directors leading the Ruataniwha water scheme was signed off by a senior Hawke's Bay Regional Council officer who admitted he had not read the proposal before it was presented in public yesterday.
The revelation was made at the council's meeting, where it decided to shelve a request to increase fees totalling an extra $315,000 for the five directors and chairman of its investment company while they worked on the dam project.
Councillors discovered Paul Drury, who is in charge of the council's finance books, was not aware his electronic signature was on the bottom of the report until just before the meeting.
The council heard its investment company's chairman, Andy Pearce, who presented the request, had not consulted Mr Drury, nor been been asked to.
The company had two external directors, Jim Scotland and Sam Robinson, each paid $15,000, and three voluntary directors, regional councillors Fenton Wilson, Alan Dick and Christine Scott, who were not paid.
The request Mr Pearce presented asked for fees for all directors to be $37,500 per year. The chairman's fee would increase from $21,500 to $37,500.
Mr Pearce said he had been asked to make the request by Mr Scotland and Mr Robinson, who felt the workload and scale of the dam scheme had increased.
Regional councillors on the board had not requested the increase, Mr Pearce said.
Councillors were reminded the investment company's constitution dictated director fees could not be changed for a three-year term. Mr Pearce argued the fees had not been set yet, because the directors had been working as an interim board while the investment company was finalised. He said the extra fees would be absorbed in the scheme's $250 million budget and opportunities to "optimise costs" could help pay for the increase.
Councillors had difficulty with the proposal, after hearing Mr Drury hadn't read the report but his signature was on it.
"It is a surprise to me that HBRIC (the investment company) should table a proposal to increase their budget and costs by $315,000 without any examination on how they might do that," Cr Neil Kirton said.
Intended or not, it looked as if councillors had their "snouts in the trough, trying to gain more money out of the system".