Monday, April 21, 2008

Immigration secretary must be investigated

On Friday, One News led with a solid investigative piece into Immigration Service head Mary Anne Thompson, who had arranged visas and residency for relatives in contravention of normal immigration guidelines. While she played no role in the decision-making process herself, the suggestion was that the junior staff who processed the applications knew damn well who they were for (thanks to her signing her name as assisting the applicants to fill out their forms), and so waived the normal requirements.

This sort of corrupt, self-serving behaviour is a gross violation of public sector values. It also violates the public service's Standards of Integrity and Conduct, and the older Public Service Code of Conduct which applies at the time. Both state that public servants must perform their jobs with professionalism and integrity, disclose conflicts of interest so that they can be managed, and ensure that their performance of their duties is not affected by personal interests. When Thompson's behaviour was brought to the attention of her boss, it was investigated, resulting in a junior staff member being disciplined (as usual, the mooks carry the can for wrongdoing at the top). But that isn't good enough. Such misbehaviour by a top public servant strikes at the very heart of the code, and fundamentally challenges the public service's integrity. If it is not stamped out quickly, the rot could spread. This is not something we can tolerate in New Zealand. The State Services Commission must investigate, and it must send a clear message: that there is no place for corruption or self-interest in our public service.