Monday, September 12, 2011

A tale of two appointments

Back in July, I kicked up a stink about Gerry Brownlee's appointments to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Review Panel. Brownlee had apparently shoulder-tapped appointees, with no person specifications, shortlists, or interviews, ignored the government fee framework and decided to pay them at twice the usual rate, then misled his Cabinet colleagues about it. Given that one of the appointees was National Party crony Jenny Shipley, it looked very dubious indeed.

Since then, I've used the OIA to poke into a few other government appointments. And its worth noting that they all followed a far more robust process than that used by Brownlee. For example, take the appointment of former Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast as chair of the Environmental Protection Authority. According to the (very thorough) OIA response [PDF] by Environment Minister Nick Smith:

Candidates were identified in a number of ways. I wrote to all parties in Government seeking nominations [he also seems to have written to the Greens, and considered a letter to Labour - I/S]. The Ministry for the Environment sought nominations from a range of relevant departments including 'the Affairs Agencies', the Natural Resources Sector and the Environmental Risk Management Authority. Additionally, an open nominations process was followed: the Crown Ownership Monitoring Unit (COMU) advertised the positions and an email calling for nominations was sent to all those registered on the COMU appointments database.

Candidates were also identified through discussions I had with my Ministerial colleagues, my staff and support parties.


Over 160 candidates were considered. of these, 12 were shortlisted by the EPA Establishment Board. Candidates were assessed against the skills prescribed in section 10 of the EPA Act... None of the candidates were interviewed. Shortlisted candidates were approached to determine their availability and interest in the position. Potential conflicts of interest were also canvassed.

Like Brownlee, Smith also asked for members of his board to be paid at higher the usual rate. However, unlike Brownlee, he actually made a case for it [PDF], citing the expectation that the Board would soon be reclassified to a higher level, fees paid to the board of the agency it was replacing, and real difficulties encountered when seeking potential board members, including indications of what they would be willing to work for. And reading it, it seems justified, unlike Brownlee, who basically seems to have pulled the need for higher fees out of his arse.

The lesson: some Ministers can run a credible, robust appointments process. Gerry Brownlee, OTOH, can't. This man can't be trusted to be a Minister; the sooner we're rid of him, the better.

[The final Cabinet paper for these appointments is here [PDF]]