Auckland Council is entering a new era of openness by publishing details about the spending of ratepayer money, says chief executive Stephen Town.
He says the first publication of details of contractors and suppliers last month was part of a bid to give ratepayers better information about how the city is run.
"There was a clear mood in the councillors when I was appointed - we need to strive to be as open and transparent as we can."
The first stab at it had the council list contractors next to the tasks for which they had been contracted, but with a threshold of $100,000 as the only indication of the cost to ratepayers.
With suppliers, the council listed the company and the value of the supply agreement where it was greater than $100,000 - but didn't list what was being supplied. It shows $383,049,101 of spending.
Mr Town said the proactive release of information would be reviewed. Future release of information could provide more or different information. "We're just testing that out."
As a comparison, the Herald looked at a copy of the Westland District Council accounts which show ratepayers almost every bit of spending, down to the local account at the bakery.
Mr Town said the $100,000 threshold was set because of the scale of Auckland Council and the mass of smaller contracts under the limit for proactive disclosure. He said there was a cost which went with providing information to the public.
"It's easy to want more when you don't have to pay for it." The information would satisfy most people, although he accepted there were some who would want more.
Mr Town said it would also help ratepayers separate the organisation which provided council services from the politicians elected to council.
"We're giving people a good picture of what good governance looks like and what good management looks like."
As part of the proactive approach, Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act requests would be published online a few days after the information was provided to the person sought.
The move follows Auckland Transport's decision to publish detailed lists of contracts over $50,000 which include the reason for the contract, who won it and how much it was worth.
Victoria University's expert on government accountability, associate professor Michael Macaulay, said transparency led to better governance and allowed the public to analyse expensive projects if they wished. "This is public money we're talking about."
Professor Macaulay, the university's Institute for Governance and Policy Studies director, said transparency also created a "paradox", with thresholds on disclosure leading to conspiracies among some ratepayers over what was not disclosed.
He said institutions needed to build in transparency procedures as part of their core business. "They could be building transparency and accountability into the systems from the beginning."
Mayoral campaigner and ardent democracy advocate Penny Bright said it was a "glacial start" and she expected more. Ms Bright has refused to pay her rates until the council details exactly where the money goes. The council is trying to seize and sell her house to cover the debt.
She said the council's move did not include spending by council-controlled organisations - with the exception of AT's own disclosures - and didn't include the amount for which contracts were let.
City spending Top 10 council suppliers
1. SAP New Zealand Limited, $21,614,701
Multinational specialising in software linking businesses and customers
2. Waste Management (NZ) Limited, $12,352,874
Waste disposal and recycling
3. Recreational Services Limited, $12,165,588
Nationwide parks and green spaces management business
4. The Fletcher Construction Co, $10,246,529
5. Madison Recruitment Limited, $9,749,406
6. NZ Strong Group Limited, $9,452,471
7. Downer New Zealand Limited -- Botany, $9,208,825
8. Downer Edi Works, $9,009,780
9. Enviro Waste Services Limited, $8,606,692
Waste removal and treatment
10. Hawkins Construction Limited, $7,309,292