Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Ad-hoc and inadequate

Back in October, we learned that Bill English knew about the GCSB's involvement in the Kim Dotcom case, having signed a Ministerial certificate suppressing the details in the courts. Questions naturally arose why English - who had signed the certificate while the Prime Minister was overseas - did not brief John Key about it when he returned from his travel. Now, thanks to an OIA lodged through FYI, the public OIA request site, we know: because the Prime Minister's office has no formal "handover" procedure when the Prime Minister travels. In response to a request for

a copy of the standard checklist (which may not be referred to as a checklist) used to ensure an effective and comprehensive hand over between the Prime Minister and an Acting Prime Minister, and vice versa, when the Prime Minister is about to go overseas, and when the Prime Minister returns from overseas.

I am after the standing items on this list which are always discussed, even if it is to report that there is nothing to discuss.

The Prime Minister's office admitted that it "does not hold any information falling within the scope of your request". There is no standard checklist, or standard procedure. Instead, such handovers - which happen several times a year - are handled on an ad-hoc basis. The Prime Minister's office says that "significant matters that arise would be discussed on a case-by-case basis" - but pretty obviously in this case they weren't. The Deputy Prime Minister failed to brief the Prime Minister on an unprecedented event - and apparently his department didn't brief him either.

This is unbelievable. A core part of our government is basically acting like total muppets, with no proper procedure to ensure continuity or consistency of government decisions. Quite apart from being a total failure of governance, it really makes you wonder what else has fallen through the cracks like this.