Second inquiry by State Services over budget leak

The State Services Commission has announced they investigate statements made and actions taken by the Secretary to the Treasury Gabriel Makhlouf following the leak of budget data two days before budget day last week.

This is in addition to an inquiry into the leak itself, announced last week.

Makhlouf seems to have handled things poorly, and the Government was messy with their handling as well.

But two inquiries as a result of the National Opposition ferreting for something so they could grandstand and embarrass the Government.

What has been achieved overall? More self inflicted discrediting of Parliament and politics in general. I don’t see anything positive from all of this.

There is no benefit to the public.

Last week:  Inquiry into unauthorised access to Budget material

The State Services Commission will undertake an inquiry into how Budget material was accessed at the Treasury.

The Secretary to the Treasury, Gabriel Makhlouf, asked the Commissioner to inquire into the adequacy of Treasury policies, systems and processes for managing Budget security.

“Unauthorised access to confidential budget material is a very serious matter,” said State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes.

“Mr Makhlouf has asked me to investigate and I am considering my options. This is a matter of considerable public interest and I will have more to say as soon as I am in a position do so.”

While there is no evidence of a system-wide issue, Mr Hughes has asked Andrew Hampton, the Government Chief Information Security Officer, to work with the Government Chief Digital Officer, Paul James, to provide assurance that information security across the Public Service is sound.

“This is an important issue because it goes to trust and confidence in the Public Service and in the security of government information,” said Mr Hughes.

“The inquiry will seek to understand exactly what has happened so that it doesn’t happen again.”

Today:  Investigation into statements made and actions taken by the Secretary to the Treasury

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes has today announced an investigation into recent questions raised concerning the Chief Executive and Secretary to the Treasury, Gabriel Makhlouf, and his actions and public statements about the causes of the unauthorised access to Budget material. 

The investigation will establish the facts in relation to Mr Makhlouf’s public statements about the causes of the unauthorised access; the advice he provided to his Minister at the time; his basis for making those statements and providing that advice; and the decision to refer the matter to the Police.

Mr Hughes said the questions that have been raised are a matter of considerable public interest and should be addressed.

“It’s my job to get to the bottom of this and that’s what I’m going to do,” said Mr Hughes.

Mr Hughes has asked Deputy State Services Commissioner, Mr John Ombler QSO, to lead the investigation. It will be done as quickly as practicable and the findings, and the Commissioner’s view of them, will be made public.

“Mr Makhlouf believes that at all times he acted in good faith,” said Mr Hughes. “Nonetheless, he and I agree that it is in everyone’s interests that the facts are established before he leaves his role on 27 June if possible. Mr Makhlouf is happy to cooperate fully to achieve that. I ask people to step back and let this process be completed.”

Neither Mr Hughes or Mr Makhlouf will be making any public comment until the investigation is finished. Mr Makhlouf will be working as usual during this period.

The investigation announced today is separate to the inquiry announced last week into the unauthorised access of Budget information. The Terms of Reference and who will lead this inquiry, which is expected to take some months, will be announced shortly.

What about an inquiry into why politicians waste so much time (and public service time) doing negative crap that has no real benefit to the country?

Hager’s presentation to Operation Burnham inquiry

RNZ – Operation Burnham Inquiry: Hager accuses Defence Force of spin and lies

Journalist Nicky Hager has launched a scathing attack on the Defence Force during a presentation to the Operation Burnham Inquiry, accusing it of not telling the full truth about its operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Inquiry, which is investigating allegations that six civilians were killed in Afghanistan during a New Zealand-led raid in 2010, and the military covered up what happened is holding a public hearing in Wellington today.

During his presentation Mr Hager spoke about the military and political context of events covered by the Inquiry, but said there was a gulf between what the New Zealand Defence Force does and what it chooses to tell the public and Parliament.

“NZDF seems to believe it is entitled to hide news that might not be welcomed by New Zealanders and to bend the facts whenever necessary to avoid criticism or scrutiny … not just mistakes made in war, but toxic foam used in bases, the scale of sexual abuse in the forces and much more.

“NZDF almost never admits mistakes until utterly forced to, and even then they will minimise and spin the news. Reputation trumps being up front.”

@Economissive:

Nicky Hager’s presentation to Operation Burnham is quite a read:

Operation Burnham public hearing 22 May 2019

Nicky Hager: the military and political context

The bit about false redactions to protect national security should be hard for the Inquiry to ignore….

Particularly as some of the names have been disclosed already:

This thread has a lot more coverage:

Website: Inquiry into Operation Burnham

Documents reveal NZDF knew civilians were killed in SAS raid.

Documents previously kept secret by the NZ Defence Force with the support of the Ombudsman have now come out in advance of an inquiry.

NZ Herald:  Documents too secret to be seen – but now the inquiry into the NZSAS raid says they should be public

New documents have revealed NZDF had intelligence showing civilians were killed just days after the 2010 NZSAS raid which is now subject to a government inquiry.

The details are part of an extraordinary document dump previously blocked by NZDF with support from the Office of the Ombudsman.

The documents have emerged as the inquiry prepares for public hearings this week at which lawyers for the Afghan villagers – those people directly affected by the raid – will not appear. The lawyers representing the villagers had pulled out of the hearing after complaints sufficient funding is not available to properly represent them.

That’s as much as I can see, the rest is behind the paywall, but this seems to be a big deal.

Release of Mueller report

It sounds like the report detailing the findings of the Robert Mueller inquiry in the US is imminent.

UPDATE:  Robert Mueller has submitted his report on the Russia probe

Special counsel Robert Mueller has submitted a confidential report to Attorney General William Barr, marking the end of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump, a Justice Department spokeswoman said.

The Justice Department notified Congress late Friday that it had received Mueller’s report but did not describe its contents. Barr is expected to summarize the findings for lawmakers in coming days.

In a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary committees, Barr wrote that Mueller “has concluded his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters.”

Barr wrote that Mueller submitted a report to him explaining his prosecution decisions. The attorney general told lawmakers he was “reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.”

Attorney General Barr has sent this letter to the heads of the Senate and House of Representatives Judiciary committees:

Dear Chairman Graham, Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Ranking Member Collins:

I write to notify you pursuant to 28 C.F.R. 600.9(a)(3) that Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters. In addition to this notification, the Special Counsel regulations require that I provide you with “a description and explanation of instances (if any) in which the Attorney General” or acting Attorney General “concluded that a proposed action by a Special Counsel was so inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices that it should not be pursued.” 28 C.F.R. 600.9(a)(3). There were no such instances during the Special Counsel’s investigation.

The Special Counsel has submitted to me today a “confidential report explaining the prosecution or delineation decisions” he has reached, as required by 28 C.F.R. 600.8(c). I am reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.

Separately, I intend to consult with Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Special Counsel Mueller to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public consistent with the law, including the Special Counsel regulations, and the Department’s long-standing practices and policies. I remain committed to as much transparency as possible, and I will keep you informed as to the status of my review.

Finally, the Special Counsel regulations provide that “the Attorney General may determine that public release of” this notification “would be in the public interest.” I have so determined, and I will disclose this letter to the public after delivering it to you.

Sincerely,

William P. Barr

Attorney General

CNN:  This was the last week of the Trump presidency as we know it

This all began on May 17, 2017, when Mueller was appointed as special counsel by deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. In the intervening 22 months (statistics courtesy of CNN Mueller probe expert Marshall Cohen):
  • Mueller brought criminal charges against 37 people and entities.
  • 6 of them were associates of President Trump: Campaign chairman Paul Manafort, deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, national security adviser Michael Flynn, foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, Trump ex-attorney Michael Cohen and political svengali Roger Stone
  • 5 people have been sentenced to prison
  • Trump has referred to the investigation as a “witch hunt” more than 170 times.

 

Police refuse to reveal any details of Dowie text inquiry

A police investigation into an alleged crime committed by a Member of Parliament is newsworthy – especially when the complainant or claimed victim is also an MP.

It’s common with major newsworthy crimes for the police to issue statements and have media conferences, with some outline and details of the investigation being made public.

But with investigations involving politicians they often if not always seem to prefer secrecy. There is no obvious reason for this, apart perhaps from protecting politicians from media mayhem.

David Fisher at NX Herald has used the OIA to seek information about an inquiry: Sarah Dowie and the text message inquiry – what the police won’t tell you

Police headquarters has pulled down the shutters on the investigation into the text message sent from National MP Sarah Dowie’s to Jami-Lee Ross.

Even basic details such as the date on which the complaint was laid and the part of the country where the investigating officer is based have been kept secret by police.

It came months after the end of their extra-marital relationship and included the words: “You deserve to die.”

Ross has previously said he did not make the complaint, which was received through the Crimestoppers freephone number.

Ross, 33, revealed the investigation just before his return to Parliament this year. It was a move which led to Dowie being named as one of the women with whom he had an extra-marital relationship while National MP for Botany.

Ross was obviously aware of the complaint and the means of making the complaint. It hasn’t been revealed whether this was due to contact with the police, or contact with the complainant.

Dowie said she was not aware of the complaint and had bot been contacted by the police.

Police headquarters had refused to make comment on the investigation, leading to the NZ Herald seeking specifics through the Official Information Act.

The sort of information sought was intended to place a context around the police inquiry involving a sitting MP – an unusual occurrence in any Parliamentary term.

Details sought included the date Crimestoppers took the complaint, when it was passed to police and where in the country the investigation had been assigned.

Other details included the rank of the officer leading the investigation, whether he or she worked in a specialised police area and the amount of time spent carrying out the inquiry.

Detective Inspector David Kirby, manager of the National Criminal Investigations Group, said: “The investigation is still ongoing and whilst the investigation is ongoing police is not in a position to go into specific details of the complaint.”

Kirby quoted the section of the Act relied on to refuse providing the information, which says OIA requests can be knocked back if doing otherwise would “prejudice the maintenance of the law, including the prevention, investigation, and detection of offences, and the right to a fair trial”.

Other areas police ruled out were the date on which Ross had been told there was an investigation, whether he had been interviewed – if at all – and whether Cabinet ministers had been told of the inquiry.

if the police had not been in contact with Ross when he revealed the complaint had been made it would indicate that Ross knew via the complainant. He has not said he had no connection to the complaint, just that he had not made the complaint himself.

It has prompted a former senior police officer to ask: “Why would this investigation be treated any differently to any other investigation?”

The blanket withholding of basic information, commonly released by police, was at odds with normal practice, said a former detective, who would not be named.

Do politicians get special treatment from the police? That’s how it appears. If so, why?

A basic tenet of our system is ‘open justice’. This sort of statement is comment in court judgments:

The starting point is the principle of open justice and the right of the media to report on decisions of court as reflected in s 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. The principle in favour of open justice should only be departed from in circumstances where the interests of justice so require, and only to the extent necessary to serve those interests.

See Erceg v Erceg [2016] NZSC 135, [2017] 1 NZLR 310 at [2]

New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990:

Freedom of expression

14. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.

But that is often balanced against the right to a fair trial, and this was given as a reason by the police for secrecy in this case. Claiming a right to a fair trial is a common grounds for seeking name suppression,  but in this case the names of both alleged offender and claimed victim are already known – because the claimed victim Ross revealed it to media.

So Ross chose to go public for political PR purposes, but despite this the police are refusing to give out any information or context, as seems common with inquiries involving politicians.

The difference in this case is a politician claims to be the victim and has already publicised the inquiry. This is an unusual situation.

Politicians are usually subject to more scrutiny than the general public, but not when the police are involved.

Mental Health and Addiction report repeats well known problems

The Mental Health and Addiction report details well known problems with mental health and drug issues, and makes 40 recommendations. Will the Government actually do something major to address the issues?  Or will we just have another inquiry in a few years time, as people keep suffering and dying?

Beehive: Mental Health and Addiction report charts new direction

Health Minister Dr David Clark says the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink how we handle some of the biggest challenges we face as a country.

The Government has today publicly released the report of the Inquiry in full, less than a week after receiving it.

“Mental health and addiction are issues for all New Zealanders. Every community and just about every family has someone in it that has lived with a mental health or addiction challenge.

“The Inquiry heard many stories of people who did not get the help they needed and deserved. We must listen to these voices of people with lived experience.

“The report charts a new direction for mental health and addiction in New Zealand, one that puts people at the centre of our approach.

“It is clear we need to do more to support people as they deal with these issues – and do a lot more to intervene earlier and support wellbeing in our communities.

“The Inquiry panel has delivered a set of strong and coherent recommendations covering everything from the social determinants of health and wellbeing, to expanding access to treatment services and taking strong action on alcohol and drugs.

“We are working our way carefully through the 40 recommendations and will formally respond in March. I want to be upfront with the public, however, that many of the issues we’re facing, such as workforce shortages, will take years to fix.

“Reshaping our approach to mental health and addiction is no small task and will take some time. But I’m confident this report points us in the right direction, and today marks the start of real change for the better,” David Clark says.

Clark and Labour said urgent action was required – last year. Now he says “Reshaping our approach…will take some time”.

ODT:  Mental health shake-up urged

Mental health and addiction services are unbalanced, under-resourced, unfocused and require a major shakeup to make them patient-centric, the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction says.

A 219-page report released yesterday made 40 recommendations in a broad assessment of health issues which affect an estimated 20% of New Zealanders each year, and 50%-80% of people at least once in their lifetime.

”We think New Zealand’s future mental health and addiction system should build on the foundations in place, but should look and be very different,” the report said.

”At its heart should be a vision of mental health and wellbeing for all … hospital and inpatient units will not be the centre of the system.

”Instead, the community will be central, with a full raft of intervention and respite options designed to intervene early, keep people safe and avoid inpatient treatment where possible.”

Some recommendations are controversial, such as setting a targets for reduction in suicides – a 20% drop by 2030 – and to measure the effectiveness of mental health and addiction services.

New Zealand’s approach to drugs needed to change, the report said.

”While New Zealand was the first country to introduce a state-sponsored needle exchange programme, we seem to have lost our spirit and failed to put people’s health at the centre of our approach.”

It was similarly forceful on the place of alcohol in society.

”We do not believe one in five New Zealanders drinking hazardously each year is a small minority,” it said.

”We also know that alcohol’s reach across society is far greater than simply the sum of its impacts on individual drinkers; families, friends and communities are all touched through one person’s drinking ”

Key recommendations

• Repeal and replace the Mental Health Act.
• Review laws and regulations concerning drug possession and sale of alcohol.
• Set a target of a 20% reduction in suicide rates by 2030.
• Establish a suicide prevention office.
• Establish a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission.
• Significantly increase access to mental health and addiction services.
• Make improving mental health a specific focus of the primary healthcare system.
• Strengthen the consumer voice in developing mental health and addiction programmes.
• Make families more involved in treatment.
• Improve training and retention of mental health and addiction workers.

 

 

Mental Health Inquiry report being released today

RNZ:  Govt to release Mental Health Inquiry report today

The panel, led by the former health watchdog Ron Paterson, has spent roughly 10 months consulting people around the country, holding more than 400 meetings and considering about 5000 submissions.

It delivered a 200 page report and 40 recommendations to the Health Minister David Clark last week.

The government will release the report today, but will not formally respond with its plan until March.

Dr Clark has said the inquiry will shape the country’s response to mental health for years to come.

There is pressure on the Government to act quickly with claims that current mental health care is in crisis.

Like:  Teens face up to three month wait for mental health services

Teens needing non-urgent mental health services in the top of the south currently face a wait of up to three months before they are seen.

There had been five resignations in CAMHS team across the district in the past six months and there were three vacancies.

Working in mental health care is very demanding.

The Inquiry website:  Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction

Our purpose was to identify unmet needs and develop recommendations for a better mental health and addiction system for Aotearoa New Zealand.

We wanted to set a clear direction for the next five to ten years that Government, the mental health and addiction sectors and the whole community can pick up and make happen.

On 28 November 2018, we presented He Ara Oranga : report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction to the Government.

The Government has indicated it needs time to consider the report’s findings, but expects to release the report prior to the end of the year.

Once the report has been released it will be available on this website in various formats.

That should be today.

 

Scholtens inquiry clears Haumaha appointment process, other issues remain

Oddly after Tracey Martin seemed to be maaking the decisions over the release of the Scholtens inquiry into the appointment of Wally Haumaha, the only official statement has been made by State Services Minister Chris Hipkins.

The Inquiry into the process that led to the appointment of a Deputy Commissioner of Police has found that the process was sound, State Services Minister Chris Hipkins says.

The Government asked independent reviewer Mary Scholtens QC to report on the adequacy of the process that led to the appointment of Wally Haumaha.

Mary Scholtens’ report was released today.

The Inquiry’s purpose was to examine, identify, and report on the adequacy of the process that led to the appointment.

It found the process was sound and no available relevant information was omitted.

However it did make some recommendations on how the appointment process could be improved in the future.

“I want to thank Mary Scholtens for her work and thank everyone who participated in the inquiry,” Chris Hipkins said.

The inquiry found that information that later emerged about Haumaha was not available at the time of the appointment. Some of this is being covered by an ongoing IPCA inquiry.

Media are following up on the report release.

Stacey Kirk (Stuff): Haumaha and politics of perception

On the political stage, perception is the backdrop curtain that hangs over everything.

The “nothing to see here” report on the appointment of Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha makes for interesting reading – it’s not the typical whitewash.

Inquiry head Mary Scholtens, QC, found the process to appoint Haumaha was “sound”.

Her investigation into Louise Nicholas’ concerns over Haumaha and statements he made to Operation Austin suggest he appeared to have her support – at least in the absence of outright opposition.

The public perception that’s likely to form, after an advocate of Nicholas’ standing publicly spoke out against him is probably enough to empower a number of recipients of negative actions to come forward and lay their own complaints of negative treatment, and it did.

Government coalition party NZ First, with MPs who historically had close ties to Haumaha, adds further fuel to fire of public perception.

In fairness to Haumaha, he has had, at least outwardly, an exemplary career. On paper, he should be a prime candidate for the role. The allegations for which he has had little avenue to answer to, are found to be unsubstantiated in this report – but public perceptions about him will remain.

Haumaha report to be released on Monday

There seems to have been a lot of fluffing around since Tracey Martin received the report over a week ago, following the inquiry into the appointment of Police Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha. Yesterday Martin announced that the report would be released on Monday at 11 am.

On Newshub Nation  on Saturday morning:

All right, final question with your third hat on – Internal Affairs Minister. You’re in charge of the inquiry into Wally Haumaha’s appointment to Deputy Police Commissioner. You have that report right now, so when are you going to release it?

Monday at 11am.

Why have you not released it before the police commissioner went to the select committee?

Because, first of all, I didn’t even know the police commissioner was going to the select committee. Because I needed to make sure that Crown Law had gone through and redacted all the names and so on and so forth of Woman A, Woman B and Woman C, to protect their privacy. And so that is what I did. I wanted to make sure that that had happened and then to set in the process by which to release it publicly.

So they took a week to redact names from the report, and then deferred release of the report until after the weekend – they would have been slammed if they released the report on Friday afternoon, so I guess Monday is as good a time as any.

Jacinda Ardern will have had plenty of time to prepare for her response, either following the release of the report or at her weekly media conference on Monday at 4 pm.


One could wonder if this had any connection: NZ First party president denies laying down the law in Nelson

NZ First’s president called a sudden party meeting on Saturday to deal with “concerning issues” that were said to involve a rift.

New president Lester Gray flew into Nelson with the party’s judicial officer, lawyer Brian Henry. One source said he was demanding members toe the party line, or face expulsion.

The short-notice invitation from Gray said “this week I have been notified of some potentially concerning issues for the NZ First Party. We have therefore called a special meeting in Nelson for Saturday.”

However, Gray said it was a standard electorate meeting, with the agenda closed to members.

Members across parts of the South Island received an email late on Friday morning, calling them to the meeting the following day.

Martin received the report that Friday. I don’t know whether the ‘special meeting’ had anything to do with the report or not

Oddly, Martin didn’t hand on a copy of the report to the Prime Minister until the following Monday.

Question No. 12—Internal Affairs

12. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Which Ministers, if any, have been provided with a copy or executive summary of the final report of the Government Inquiry into the Appointment Process for a Deputy Commissioner of Police, and when were those Ministers provided with those copies or summaries?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Minister of Internal Affairs): My office delivered a copy to the office of the Prime Minister yesterday.

Chris Bishop: Will she be discussing the report and the next steps the Government will be taking with the State Services Commissioner and/or the Solicitor-General?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: My office is currently taking legal advice around the process to hand over to the Minister of State Services and the process with which to do pre-releases to those who need to see the report—e.g., those who participated in it—and then when that report will be released. We are trying to release the report as quickly as possible.

Surely this could (should) have all been worked out prior to the report being handed over.

On Wednesday:

Question No. 10—Internal Affairs

10. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Does the report of the Inquiry into the Appointment Process for a Deputy Commissioner of Police recommend that the appointment process be reopened?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Minister of Internal Affairs): The Government is not going to talk about the findings of the report until it is publicly released. We are following the process recommended by the inquiry, which is to first provide the report to the interested parties.

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Because it is not in the public interest, we are following the process recommended by the inquiry, which is to first provide the report to the interested parties.

Chris Bishop: Does the report of the inquiry into the appointment process for a Deputy Commissioner of Police make findings or recommendations in relation to the allegations of bullying against Mr Haumaha made by the three public servants who worked with him?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I refer the member to my answer to the primary question. It is those people exactly who we are trying to make sure are protected.

Martin repeats “The Government is not going to talk about the findings of the report until it is publicly released”. But then…

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm, in light of the report, which she has seen, that the allegations of a cover-up are just plain ridiculous?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Unfortunately, the scope of the inquiry is not around the terrible allegations put forward by members of this Parliament.

…she responds to a question from Peters regarding the findings of the report. Obviously Peters had seen the report or had been advised of the contents of the report by now.

Peters and NZ First have associations with Haumaha and his appointment, so it seems odd that a NZ First minister is managing the release of the report.

 

 

 

Hauhama report delayed

It was highly questionable that Tracey Martin should have been put in charge of the inquiry into the appointment of Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Hauhama. She  received the inquiry report a week ago, but is not releasing it. She is under increasing pressure from critics, which seems fair enough.

Newsroom:  Release of Haumaha report delayed

The controversy over the investigation into the appointment of Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha continues this week as the release of the findings are delayed.

Haumaha’s appointment to one of the top policing jobs was called into question following revelations he backed police officers accused of raping Louise Nicholas.

Bullying allegations from 2016 then surfaced, and are now subject of an investigation by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA).

The investigation into the process of Haumaha’s appointment had a false start due to a conflict of interest, and was then extended, but has now concluded.

However, the findings are yet to be released.

Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin said she was the only one who had a copy of the report. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was also aware of the findings, she said. And Cabinet met on Monday to discuss the release of the report.

But a wider circle of people involved – including the Police Commissioner – had not seen the report, and would not be briefed until those mentioned in the report had the chance to see it, Martin said.

It had now been almost a week since the Minister received the report, and the opposition is accusing her of cynically delaying the release as Parliament approaches a two-week recess.

This looks increasingly messy.