Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tariana Turia's crony appointment

Last month, the government appointed former Maori Party leader Tariana Turia - already the recipient of a crony knighthood - to the board of the Families Commission. This looked like a straight-out retirement package for a loyal footstool, so I sent in the usual OIA request seeking information about the appointment process. It revealed some interesting points:

  • There were 35 applicants for the positions. Nine people were nominated by "your Cabinet/Caucus colleagues" (i.e. the National party), seven by the Maori Party, three from the Ministry for Women and one from the Superu board itself. 15 were self-nominated, i.e. responded to the Ministry's advertising campaign. Unfortunately, there's no information on who nominated Turia (or the other successful candidates), but the odds are that her was a political nomination rather than a genuine application for the job.
  • Superu was very clear about what sorts of candidates it wanted: people with experience in governance, social science research, and "issues facing Pasifika and other ethnic groups". They were consistent about this until the Minister had decided that Turia would be shortlisted and interviewed - after which they suddenly looking for "practical knowledge and understanding of family diversity, in particular reference to Maori" (they also downgraded the statistics criteria from "technical knowledge" to "application of"). There is no explanation for or advice on the change - it just appears out of nowhere. Its almost as if they changed the criteria to suit their preferred candidate...
  • Just to make sure of it, they decided that Turia - a former politician who has been institutionalised in Parliament for the past 18 years - met the statistical requirement too as she
    understood the value and need for research and evidence to support robust social policy and she provided examples that highlight her understanding of the contribution of research and evidence makes to public policy.
    Which, while useful, is a long way from the original requirement for a stats wonk.
  • Having met the changed appointment criteria, Turia was duly appointed. She's being paid $565 a meeting, the same as the other board members.
So, not a slam-dunk, but it certainly looks like they strapped the chicken to ensure the appointment of their preferred crony candidate. And again, while Turia might be OK at this job, the method of her appointment does her no credit whatsoever.