Monday, June 22, 2009

Correction: Rankin not bound by state sector neutrality

In a post last night, I argued that Families Commissioner Christine Rankin could not front the child-beaters' "no vote" campaign because that would be a gross violation of the State Services Commission's Standards of Integrity and Conduct for the State Sector. This was incorrect - a reader has pointed out to me that the Code explicitly does not apply to Crown Entity board members. The reason for this is that board members are directly accountable to Ministers, bound by statutory duties to act with honesty and integrity and in good faith and not at expense of entity's interests, and may be easily dismissed by the Minister if they fail to abide by those standards. The SSC sees this as a similar degree of accountability to that required under the Standards of Integrity and Conduct (there is more discussion of the issue here).

I was wrong, and I apologise for the inaccuracy. However, it is worth pointing out that those statutory duties - in particular the duty to act in good faith "and not pursue his or her own interests at the expense of the entity's interests" - put Rankin on very dangerous ground on this issue. Now that she is a Families Commissioner, she is (rightly or wrongly) seen as representing the Commission. She has a legal duty not to abuse that perception for her own political interests.

Of course, the mere existence of a legal duty does not mean it will be enforced. But if the Minister for Social Development will not hold Rankin accountable, then she will be held accountable - by Parliament, and the public.