Monday, March 12, 2012

Judith Collins' brazen cronyism

Last month, Justice Minister Judith Collins appointed former National MP Wayne Mapp to the Law Commission. It looked like a crony appointment, so I submitted the usual OIA request, seeking information on whether the appointment process had followed the SSC guidelines [PDF]. I received the response back on Saturday, and it paints a dismal picture of brazen cronyism.

First, some context [PDF]. The Law Commission needed to make an appointment because one of their members was retiring on 31 January 2012, and another was sick (this member has subsequently died). Statutorily, they're required to have at least three members, and while it doesn't affect their functions if they fall below this number, it looks bad. So back in September they wrote to then Justice Minister Simon Power, floating some potential appointees (none of whom had actually been asked whether they were available) and recommending a short-term appointment. While the names of the prospective appointees have been redacted for privacy reasons, its pretty clear that Wayne Mapp was not one of them. In accordance with the caretaker convention, Power deferred the decision until after the election (and his retirement).

In the interim, according to the Law Commission advice [PDF]

a nomination was received from Hon Dr Wayne Mapp. Dr Mapp's curriculum vitae was also forwarded.
Collins appointed him for the maximum term of five years. No position description, no advertisement, no interviews, no shortlist, no process. His name was given to the Law Commission, and he was appointed. Is that simple.

So who gave Mapp's name to the Law Commission? Why, Judith Collins did [Note: see correction here]. So she imposed her candidate on the Commission, without following any proper process. I guess she's been learning from Brownlee.

But it gets better. In her response to me [PDF], Collins justified her failure to follow SSC guidelines as follows:

The SSC guidelines to which you are referring are designed to ensure Ministers receive consistent information on candidates being recommended for appointment about whom they often have no prior information. The guidelines are just that. It is wholly up to Ministers to determine to what extent the guidelines need to be applied in any appointment process or part thereof.

In the case in point, the appointee was well known to Ministers and is respected for his abilities.

Or, in English, "the rules don't apply to cronies". Interestingly, despite this response, she told her Cabinet colleagues [PDF] that
I can confirm that an appropriate process has been followed in selecting the proposed appointees [sic] in terms of the State Services Commission (SSC) guidelines. Alternative options for identifying candidates were considered.
The paper trail tells a different story. The process was not followed, and there is no evidence that alternative options were considered. This was a crony appointment, pure and simple. And we should not tolerate it in our public service.