The chief executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is refusing to say whether she believes Team New Zealand or its events company America's Cup Event attempted to deceive it over a $3 million fee that is in dispute.
In August, MBIE, Auckland Council and Team New Zealand issued a joint statement welcoming a report by forensic accountants Beattie Varley probing the spending by America's Cup Event (ACE), which they said showed no fraud or misappropriation of money.
Only a summary of the report was released.
Although the statement revealed that the parties were going to mediation over the $3m fee to design the foiling boats for next year's regatta, Team New Zealand said the report represented "total vindication".
Its chief executive, Grant Dalton, told NewstalkZB he believed the dispute could be resolved in a 20-minute conversation.
But this week MBIE released the full Beattie Varley report, which outlined the depth of the dispute over the fee. Beattie Varley's report revealed MBIE's position was the expense "was not contemplated as being within the management and delivery" of the event when the host venue agreement was signed.
The payment of the $3m for that purpose was not communicated to it, MBIE told Beattie Varley, was not set out in budgets ahead of the agreement "and was not accurately referenced" in updates provided to MBIE, described until May 2020 simply as "project management" and then later "Team NZ Project Management".
After refusing to be interviewed about the matter for weeks, Carolyn Tremain, chief executive of MBIE, described the matter as "a difference of opinion, and we're going to mediation on that difference of opinion".
Asked four times whether she believed MBIE had been deceived by ACE or Team New Zealand, Tremain would not say one way or another.
"We are partners in the delivery of this event and working through that we have a contract that underpins the relationship."
Although the agreed statement noted "some concerns around record keeping relating to several historical matters", it excluded Beattie Varley's statement that the failure to maintain documentation "that would allow objective verification warrants criticism at a governance and management level" especially given how much of the funding came from taxpayers.
Tremain denied she had minimised the severity of Beattie Varley's conclusions, claiming the statement covered the main issues.
"You can't cram everything in the agreed statement. We felt we hit upon the most important ones. If I could have got the media statement into one page then I would have been happy with that."
Beattie Varley was asked to investigate by MBIE after a whistleblower raised concerns. Later the whistleblowers would be revealed to be event management company Mayo & Calder.
Dalton initially claimed the company were spies who had been expelled and denied they were whistleblowers. Team New Zealand described the company in documents as "informants".
Beattie Varley described the company as whistleblowers in its final report.
Tremain says the company's claims were not substantiated, but she had no reason to question their motives.
"I don't have any reason to believe that when they made those claims that they weren't doing so in good faith [or]...at any time," Tremain said.
Team New Zealand has not responded to requests for comment since the final Beattie Varley report was released.
In an earlier letter to MBIE, Team New Zealand described the fee as "a valid charge in relation to the management and delivery of the events for the significant time spent by [Team New Zealand] team members for event related matters".