PM there and here

September 27, 2018

Happy headlines are following Jacinda Ardern in New York.

Back home the media are looking past the stardust to the continuing saga over Derek Handley and the position of Chief Technology Officer he was appointed to then disappointed from.

NZ Herald opines:

There can be no doubt the Derek Handley saga is a train wreck that is now threatening to derail confidence in the Government.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern may have been hoping she could leave the domestic turmoil of the past few weeks behind her, while she – with partner Clarke Gayford and baby Neve – wows world leaders and their delegations at the United Nations in New York.

But she clearly wasn’t banking on tech entrepreneur Derek Handley yesterday releasing his text and email communications with her and former Minister for Government Digital Services Clare Curran, and speaking further about the whole sorry saga – including bemoaning his lack of apology or explanation in the matter of the bungled chief technology officer recruitment process.

Possibly Ardern thought sacking Curran from that ministerial post – and Curran’s subsequent resignation from all her ministerial portfolios – was enough to put the incident to rest.

However, yesterday the PM found herself having to fend off accusations she had misled Parliament over her own communications with Handley, Finance Minister Grant Robertson was forced to correct his answer in Parliament over emails between Handley and Curran, and new Digital Services Minister Megan Woods was clearly forced to finally call Handley to apologise for the “impact this has had on him and his family”. She also had to retract her statement there had been a confidentiality agreement with Handley over his financial settlement.

What a shemozzle.

It still doesn’t feel like a satisfying conclusion for anyone – if indeed this end of the matter. . .

This is a serious black mark for the Government. The overall unease around communication, competency and transparency over this issue is now raising questions about the PM’s leadership and the Government’s integrity in general. . .

Audrey Young writes:

It is becoming a habit – for the second time in three weeks, National leader Simon Bridges has accused Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of misleading the public.

This time she has also been accused of misleading Parliament as well as the public and Bridges has demanded she correct her statements.

Ardern put up a strenuous defence on both counts that there was no need for corrections. . .

But Kiwiblog quotes Hansard: and shows on the 18th and 19th of September in answer to questions from National leader SImon Bridges that taking the most generous view of what she said, she was at the very least economical with the truth.

Back to Young:

Until now, the fiasco, mainly over an undisclosed meeting, had reflected badly on Curran but the contagion has spread to Ardern and made the Government look amateurish.

Grant Robertson had to correct an answer in the House today he gave last week on Clare Curran’s emails to Handley and Woods had to retract a suggestion that the severance contract with Handley may have been subject to a confidentiality clause.

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters swore blind Ardern was blameless of anything and everything.

True, she will not have to correct any answers she has given to Parliament.

But that is almost irrelevant because even if she did, it would not undo the damage she has done to herself.

A train wreck, a schemozzle,  a fiasco. These aren’t adjectives any government wants applied to them.

But nearly a year into office, the one that explains the mess is amateurish.

 


Messier and messier

September 15, 2018

Former minister Clare Curran’s mismanagement has cost taxpayers $107,000.

Dumped chief technology officer candidate Derek Handley has been paid out more than $100,000 in compensation by the Government, Digital Services Minister Megan Woods has confirmed.

Woods said the Government had agreed to pay Handley compensation totalling $107,500 after deciding to put the recruitment process for the country’s first national chief technology officer on hold and “rethinking the role”. 

Woods issued the statement after Handley said the Government had reneged on a commitment to give him the job and paid him three months’ salary, and costs, as compensation.

Handley said he had decided not to keep the money, and would instead donate it towards a fund to support ideas, programmes and grants to tackle “digital inequality”.

Former communications minister Clare Curran resigned first from Cabinet and then as minister after it emerged she met Handley in February to discuss the job and then “omitted” to document the meeting in response to a parliamentary question.

Handley said he was “offered and accepted” the job – which had been billed as offering a salary of up to $400,000 plus a $100,000 travel budget – a month ago.

“Earlier this week I was deeply disappointed to learn that the Government will no longer follow through with their commitment and will not be making that appointment at this time.”  . .

 National’s State Services spokesperson Nick Smith sums it up:

. . .“The process around appointing a Chief Technology Officer has been a shambles from the beginning. It involved secret meetings and emails, the resignation of Minister Clare Curran and now we’re paying Derek Handley around $100,000 for a job he never even started.

“The Government must now come clean with the hidden emails from Clare Curran and the Prime Minister so we know the full story of how badly this was handled.

“The CTO is the flagship of the Government’s IT policy and was budgeted to cost the taxpayer over $500,000 per year. Now if it still goes ahead we can add a pay out of over $100,000 because of the Government’s incompetence.    . .

Point of Order calls this a disgraceful  saga, one  which  has  few parallels  in the history  of state-sector  appointments.

Curran’s resignation as a minister ought to have put this particular mess behind the government, but the mess just keeps getting messier and more expensive.

 


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