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.

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.

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.