Friday, February 17, 2006

Precedents and repentance

TVNZ's chairman seems unrepentant over being referred to the Privileges Committee - which I'm sure won't be helping his case. While there's a lot of politics involved - how could there not be? - fundamentally this is about making sure that public sector entities like TVNZ are fully accountable to Parliament. Any hint that they are bullshitting or attempting to manipulate the evidence given to the body which is supposed to oversee them deserves investigation, and any such behaviour cannot be allowed to stand. If Craig Boyce is unhappy with that arrangement - of being accountable to the representatives of his "shareholders" and not being allowed to lie to them like he would in the private sector - then he should resign.

Meanwhile, a reader has informed me that there is a precedent for this sort of investigation of an SOE/CROC: four years ago, NZ Post was dragged before the Privileges Committee after they'd misled the Finance and Expenditure Committee about the availability of some information. The committee had demanded a copy of a particular report into their operations in South Africa, and the CEO had denied they had one. It later turned out they did, but it was only a draft; they had parsed their way around the request, in exactly the way the Bush Administration does over questions about torture. The Chief Executive and the Chair of NZ Post's board (Jim Bolger) were forced to make a formal apology to the Committee, and no further action was taken.

(The committee report into this is here [PDF]).

Looking back through other Privileges Committee reports, it looks as if most end with an apology being made to Parliament. This isn't always appropriate - journalists should not be forced to grovel to the people they are overseeing on our behalf - but it certainly is in this case. If TVNZ's CEO's ego doesn't let him do this, then its the board's job to make sure that he does - or replace him with someone who can.