Thursday, May 14, 2015

A whitewash

The Auditor-General is supposed to be our watchdog against corruption and conflicts of interest in government. But today, they threw their integrity and reputation on the bonfire to protect National's Katherine Rich:

Conflict of interest claims against former National MP Katherine Rich will not be investigated by the Office of the Auditor-General.


"We are satisfied that there are no matters we need to investigate further. We have not identified problems with the management of conflicts of interest by the HPA.

"We consider it would be too simplistic to assume that the aims and activities of the HPA and FGC are incontrovertibly opposed and utterly incompatible, such that a person who was associated with one organisation was impossibly compromised from any association with the other.

"Similarly, it would be too vague and indirect to conclude that it is impermissible for Mrs Rich to participate in any matter relating to a broad general subject-matter, such as alcohol or tobacco."

The OAG said that its review of HPA's minutes had not identified any matters or decisions that might raise serious concerns about its management of conflicts of interest.

Right. So Rich can decide on alcohol, tobacco and sugar, despite being a lobbyist for those very industries. And there was no conflict, despite the fact that she actually did make such decisions. As for the concerns about her hiring Carrick Graham to subcontract sewerbloggers to run PR hits on health researchers, that's dismissed as "not relat[ing] to Mrs Rich's conduct on the HPA", despite it being a serious conflict in and of itself.

And the kicker? They didn't even bother to interview her. Some fucking watchdog. Instead of protecting the public interest, the Auditor-General is just whitewashing for the powerful.