Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Jones appointment II

In my earlier post on the Jones appointment, I noted the lack of any formal advice. There were no briefings, no policy development documents, no cabinet papers, no advice to the Governor-General to make the appointment, not even a formal appointment letter. This was surprising, so I queried it, asking for a list of those documents that had been withheld. The response:

no documents, of the type you specified (formal briefings, cabinet papers or appointment letters), were withheld.
A further query confirmed this, and also elicited this:
Head of Mission/Post roles are not considered by Cabinet or APH.
This is utterly unbelievable. The Cabinet Manual requires that "all but the most minor public appointments" must be submitted to Cabinet. The detailed guidance on this makes it clear that all appointments made "by the Governor-General on the advice of a Minister, or by the Governor-General in Executive Council" (such as the appointment of a head of mission / post ambassadorial role) must go to Cabinet and the Cabinet Appointments and Honours Committee (APH) (it also has a helpful outline of the appointments process which McCully has completely ignored). So what am I to conclude? There seem to be three options:
  • McCully's SPS is lying to me about the documents that exist and the process followed (unlikely);
  • McCully violated the Cabinet Manual by not consulting his Cabinet colleagues on a senior appointment. But even then the Minister should have signed an appointment letter; or
  • Jones' position isn't a head of mission / post and did not need Cabinet approval, and McCully ordered MFAT to employ him in violation of the State Sector Act.
At this stage, I think its time for some real journalists to start asking some questions to get to the bottom of this.

Update: added note about the existence of an appointment letter for option 2.