Sir Bruce Ferguson – headhunted for interview?

It seems unusual for the former boss of a secret spy organisation to have a TV interview revealing he still has sources on the inside.

Former GCSB head Sir Bruce Ferguson speaks out

Ex-GCSB director Sir Bruce Ferguson told Campbell Live he believes Mr Fletcher did not go through the same selection process as he and previous heads had.

Mr Fletcher has no military background and was shoulder-tapped by Mr Key who asked him to apply for the position.

Sir Bruce says he knew of one of the people who was shortlisted for the job by the State Services Commission, but “then at the 11th hour was told ‘don’t come to an interview, we’ve already selected a candidate'”.

Previous heads of the Government spy agency had military backgrounds which were important for the job, he says. He is concerned selection process did not take that into account.

“The State Services Commissioner is entrusted with running an apolitical selection process. From what I hear it appears that may not have happened and if that didn’t happen then I find that disturbing.”

Sir Bruce says morale at the GCSB was “as low as ever”.

“That’s not just because of this, the Kim Dotcom episode has had a significant impact on the bureau too.”

Watch video for the full interview.

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie has responded to some of this in a press conference:

A military or intelligence background is not essential for the top GCSB roll.

Disappointed in GCSB comments made by Sir Bruce Fergusson.

Rennie said  it was not true that candidates with experience were dumped at the last minute, as Ferguson claimed.

“Bruce has misunderstood the process and hasn’t informed himself about what happened.

“Bruce was claiming that certain people had been shortlisted and not interviewed in favour of Mr Fletcher; this is not true.”

(Stuff and 3 News)

Last night Rennie had said:

“I am outraged that there has baseless attacks on the credibility of Mr Fletcher’s appointment,” Rennie said.

At Kiwiblog David Farrar is “fascinated that a former GCSB Director went on Campbell Live (a good scoop for them) and criticised the selection process of Ian Fletcher” in More on Fletcher appointment.

And a KB commenter davidp says:

Ferguson implied that he has sources in GCSB that let him know what is going on inside the agency. He definitely seemed upset that that the role wasn’t given to an ex-military person as a retirement posting. Should GCSB staff be leaking internal matters outside the agency, even if to a previous staff member? I think that needs to be investigated, and who ever is leaking to Ferguson should be held to account.

I think that’s an important point.

Which pretty much sums up the matter: GCSB has been a retirement home for retired military officers. That needs to change. They’re pissed about it and are trying to undermine the Director. And then along comes Robertson, Labour’s Spokesman for Kim Dotcom Affairs with his agenda of pushing the fat German’s interests.

Surprise, surprise – power plays and politics.

Not a surpise – that Grant Robertson is involved.

But it is a surprise that the ex boss of the GCSB is publicly discussing sources he says he still has within the secret agency. You don’t need a military background to see the problem here.

Was Ferguson head hunted for the interview? Or did he volunteer his secret inside information?

Did Grant Robertson play a part in organising his support? So far Robertson has been “lying by omission” if he hasn’t been fully open about what appeared to be a close connecting between Ferguson’s interview and the attention Robertson gave it last night.

Grant Robertson, cronyism, and Iain Rennie

Accusations of cronyism are very risky for all politicians – it’s a finger that can frequently be pointed back at the accuser, sooner or later.

And accusations of poor process often cannot be isolated to the opponent being targeted, the public servants responsible for carrying out the process cannot avoid being assocated with the criticisms.

The Herald in Labour: Cronyism in spy job appointment

Labour’s deputy leader Grant Robertson said today that Mr Key’s intervention in the appointment process reeked of cronyism and was further evidence of a disturbing lack of transparency.

“This looks like a jack-up to get John Key’s mate appointed as our top spy. He was not even an applicant for the job, and ended up being the only person interviewed. The public of New Zealand deserve far better than this kind of cronyism, especially in a sensitive position such as this.

“Are John Key and Iain Rennie really trying to suggest that Mr Fletcher was the only person who deserved to be interviewed? And why was the position not re-advertised if the shortlist of applicants was rejected? That’s certainly what would normally happen in those circumstances.”

Grant Robertson includes Iain Rennie directly in his accusations here, questioning the integrity of the State Services Commissioner.

Rennie says:

The integrity of the selection panel was “beyond question”.

Robertson’s accusations cannot avoid casting aspersions on the selection panel, although Robertson has tried to isloate them from the focus of his attacks. Last night he tweeted:

this isnt about integrity of panel. They were in impossible position when only presented with Key’s candidate

The panel of three interviewed Fletcher and recommened his appointment, so their integrity is unavoidable being questioned by Robertson. Andrea Vance replied to Robertson:

isn’t it questioning their integrity to say they didn’t have minds of their own? Cld hv said no.

If the panel – and Rennie – had integrity they would have rejected any imappropriate interference by Key.

If Grant Robertson wants to pin cronyism on Key he cannot avoid pinning the same on Rennie and the selection panel. So he cannot avoid targeting public servants in his campaign against Key.

Robertson is very familiar with the public service, he has been closely associated with it:

Robertson joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade after leaving university. His overseas postings included the United Nations in New York. Robertson also managed the NZ Overseas Aid Programme to Samoa – a $7.7 million fund with projects in diverse areas such basic education, healthcare, public sector capacity building, small business development, empowerment of women.

Robertson returned to New Zealand during the first term of the Fifth Labour Government to work as a Ministerial advisor to Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs and later Prime Minister Helen Clark. During his time in Clark’s office, Robertson was rumoured to have the nickname “H3” during the 2005 General Election (H1 being Clark, and H2 being Chief of Staff, Heather Simpson).

If Robertson becomes deputy Prime Minister – or Prime Minister – how will he avoid “cronyism”? He must know many people who have worked alongside him, with him and for him in the public service.

But back to the current scandal-mongering, to avoid “lying by omission” Grant Robertson should be clear about what he is accusing Ian Rennie of. He has already said:

This looks like a jack-up to get John Key’s mate appointed as our top spy.

That is clearly a serious accusation aimed in Rennie’s direction.

Are John Key and Iain Rennie really trying to suggest

Robertson has clearly associated Rennie and questioned the integrity of Rennie. For an ex public servant and current high ranking politician this is serious questioning of the integrity of a high ranking public servant.

On Firstline David Shearer has just said his biggest concern is in having confidence in “the chain of command”.

Robertson needs to say if he has confidence in Iain Rennie. And in Ian Fletcher.

Longstone’s letter

Outgoing CEO of the Ministry of Education asnd Secretary of Education Lesley Longstone’s letter to staff prior to the announcement of her resignation:

Dear colleague, at noon today Iain Rennie, the State Services Commissioner, will be announcing my resignation from the position of Chief Executive of the Ministry of Education and Secretary for Education. This has been an extremely difficult decision for me and one that I want you to understand.

2012 was, without doubt, a very challenging year for the ministry. The extent of change has been great and in more than a few cases, controversial.

At the same time, we can look back proudly on a number of achievements that would not have been possible without the commitment and hard work of so many talented people working here in the ministry. I know that so many of you have gone the extra mile and I am so grateful for the support I have had over the past year.

Just to re-cap some of those achievements: continuing increases in participation in early childhood education, the reporting to parents of National Standards data for the first time and continued improvement, particularly for our priority groups, in NCEA outcomes.

The changes to the Resource Teachers Learning and Behaviour service and the expansion of Positive Behaviour for Learning programmes offer real promise to some of our more needy learners and the development of the intensive wrap-around service offers new opportunities for children with special needs to be supported to learn in their home communities.

We have spoken out about the social inequity inherent in our education system and begun to re-focus the work of the Ministry and our support for ECE services, schools and other providers on those children and young people who are not realising their potential.

The development of new pathways to support transitions from school to tertiary study or work is a very significant achievement. We have begun to build better links with communities, iwi and social sector agencies, to ensure that in focussing on these young people we bring everyone to the table that has a contribution to make.

These are important foundations that will position us well to achieve the Government’s Better Public Service goals for education and vulnerable children.

Internally, we have re-structured and appointed four new Regional Directors. We have established task forces to drive ahead on our key outcomes and are working ever closer with other agencies in the education sector as well as the wider social and economic sectors. I am very pleased to have made four new appointments to the Leadership Team, bringing in different areas of expertise to complement those of existing members and strengthening our leadership of the Ministry going forward. With our regional change programme in its early stages we are poised to make significant change to our service delivery model, designed to support better outcomes for learners and a more streamlined service offering for providers.

But despite our best endeavours, and I do really appreciate the efforts of those involved in these areas, not everything in 2012 has gone smoothly and there has been real disquiet relating to a range of issues including Budget 2012 proposals, Christchurch and Novopay. The accumulation of these and other things has led to deterioration in relationships with a number of important stakeholders.

This isn’t a sustainable position and following very careful thought and discussion, Iain and I have decided that the best interests of the ministry would be served bythe appointment of a new chief executive unencumbered by the difficulties of the past 6 months who is able to focus on, and re-build those relationships.

I hope that you will see and embrace this as the opportunity it is. I will return from my Christmas break on 22 January and will continue in my role until 8 February next year when a new interim Chief Executive will be appointed.

All that really remains is for me to thank you for your support over the past year or so and to hope that you, like me, will find real peace in the Christmas season. I look forward to thanking as many of you as I can personally, before I depart and I hope you will welcome Peter in the same generous way as you welcomed me.