Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tu Quoque

When they were in opposition, National constantly accused the government of "politicising the public service". They kicked and screamed especially about the Minister for the Environment's grossly improper and utterly unacceptable suggestion to bypass normal hiring procedures and employ Clare Curran in a communications role. So naturally, now that they're in government, they're doing exactly the same thing, helicoptering in hand-picked "purchase advisors" to key ministries, employed by the ministries on the public payroll, but not public servants and answering directly to Ministers:

Ministers are being told to hire private sector advisers, with departments being required to pay for them, Labour says.

Labour MP Chris Hipkins said Finance Minister Bill English had instructed ministers to use the contractors and was heavily involved in deciding who was used. Mr Hipkins said the process circumvented usual hiring processes.


"Bill English is the one who is naming all of these purchase advisers, he's the one who is approving, he was the one who instructed ministers to engage them, he chooses who they should be and has given instructions to departments about how much they should be paid," Mr Hipkins said.

The Minister of Justice has one. So does the Minister of Social Development. And the Ministers of Education, Infrastructure and Finance.

But it gets better. Newsroom [Paywalled] quotes OIA'd documents showing that Bill English isn't just telling Ministers to get their departments to hire these non-public servants, he's also giving them shortlists:

The papers also contain ministry advice to Mr Mapp about Mr English's request that his office engage a purchase adviser.

"You indicated that [the ministry] should progress this and that the Minister of Finance had suggested some names," the ministry adds.

The names of Mr Mapp's preferred candidates are blacked out.

In other words, Clare Curran, all over again. The hypocrisy is rank. So is the violation of the State sector Act's duty to act independently in employment matters.

As for why English is doing this, it seems he trusts neither the public service, or his newer Ministers - so he's planting personal spies in their offices to micromanage them and ensure that they "[produce] outputs that align with government priorities". And he is apparently planning to make this a permanent arrangement. So under National, we'll have the public service, and a parallel bureaucracy of handpicked hacks overseeing them. And all at taxpayer expense, of course.

If this is what National calls a "cleanup", I'd hate to see what they think is a "problem"...