Ombudsman on MFAT leak inquiry

The Ombudsman has been scathing of an inquiry into leaks from MFAT and how the Government handled things, which seriously compromised the careers of MFAT employees.

Stuff: Damning inquiry points finger at the Government, State Services Commissioner

Ombudsman Ron Paterson has told the Government it should compensate a former top diplomat whose career ended in tatters after he was targeted by the inquiry, which was instigated by the State Services Commission.

He has also recommended a formal apology.

The 2013 inquiry has already cost taxpayers as much as $1 million, including lawyers costs and fees paid to the woman who headed it, Paula Rebstock.

The 2013 inquiry headed resulted in senior diplomats Derek Leask and Nigel Fyfe  being singled out , despite evidence the leaks that sparked it originated from within the State Services Commission itself. The person responsible cannot be identified because of suppression orders.

While they were not named in the State Services Commission-ordered inquiry, Leask and Fyfe were easily identifiable and their conduct was publicly  criticised by the State Services Commissioner and Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully after personal emails were published revealing their opposition to restructuring of the ministry.

Paterson says the SSC acted unreasonably during the inquiry  and pointed out flaws including:

* the findings in relation to Leask exceeded the inquiry’s terms of reference.

* Leask was not given fair notice prior to his interview that his conduct would be examined.

* Insufficient material was provided him about the applicable standards against which his behaviour was being measured

* He was not treated fairly.

* The evidence relied upon by the inquiry did not reasonably support some of the criticisms made about him in the final report and some highly relevant evidence was not properly addressed

* The manner in which Leaks’s actions were addressed in the final report was disproportionate when compared with the comments about the actions of other senior MFAT managers.

* Publication of the report, in a manner that identified him and contained unfair criticisms of him, was unjust

* State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie’s public statement about Leask was unreasonable.

Paterson recommends Leask receive compensation for harm to his reputation caused by the deficiencies in the inquiry and publication of the report.

This has raised serious questions.

Stuff: Top diplomat: Serious questions to be answered about the government’s misuse of power

Neil Walter, a former top diplomat, says serious questions are raised by the Ombudsman’s report into flawed government inquiry.

In the view of three Queen’s Counsel, the investigation team’s report was riddled with errors of fact and contained a number of accusations that had little connection with either the inquiry’s terms of reference or the evidence produced.

The Privacy Commissioner has separately ruled that Rennie breached the Privacy Act.

I expect more questions will be asked about all this. Serious questions need answers and appropriate remedies.

I think one thing in particular that needs to be addressed is the apparent propensity of the current Government to attack and discredit public servants and others to protect themselves, to divert from serious issues or to discredit arguments or evidence that is inconvenient to them.

Ian Rennie statement on Fletcher appointment

Andrea Vance ‏@avancenz

Statement just in from Iain Rennie defending the process of appointing Ian Fletcher.
Says process was “normal” defended Fletcher as “outstanding” and says panel not affected by Key’s intervention
Also says it not essential to have military or intelligence background to head GCSB

Grant Robertson ‏@grantrobertson1

does he address why only one person interviewed?

Andrea Vance ‏@avancenz

…he is “outraged” by “baseless attacks”

@grantrobertson1 SSC panels “do not interview applicants unless it is believed that they could be suitable for appointment” (so not really)

From Stuff:

Fletcher’s appointment defended by SSC boss

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie has strongly defended the appointment of spy boss Ian Fletcher.

The process has come under intense scrutiny since it emerged Fletcher and Prime Minister John Key have known each other since childhood.

Key headhunted Fletcher to be director of the Government Communications Security Bureau in a phonecall after a short list of four candidates was rejected by Rennie in 2011.

Key has also stood by the process saying it was normal and it’s not relevant that Fletcher has no intelligence or military background.

Rennie said tonight that he strongly refuted claims regarding the process.

He said Fletcher was an outstanding public servant.

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

Those who replied to a job ad in May 2011 were thoroughly considered, he said.

It is “normal” for recruitment consultants to make short lists and for the commissioner to make judgments on those selected and to seek out additional candidate, he stressed.

Fletcher was the only person interviewed by an SSC selected panel, which included former Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet boss Maarten Wevers.

Rennie said there was a “high bar” for interviewees and “sometimes” only one candidate gets to this stage.

“For this position, and I want to make this very clear, it was not essential to have a military or intelligence background,” he said.

“GCSB is a civilian agency, and the position description emphasised the importance of leadership and change management expertise in this role. ”

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

The panel was aware that the Prime Minister and Fletcher knew each other and had spoken on the telephone, he said.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8500613/Fletchers-appointment-defended-by-SSC-boss

What will Grant Robertson say now?

He should have known that an atack on John Key and process was also an attack on the integrity of the State Services Commission, who were responsible for the process.

Grant Robertson ‏@grantrobertson1

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

Andrea Vance ‏@avancenz 3m

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