Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Another crony appointment

Back in April, Pita Sharples and Bill English jointly appointer former National MP Georgina te Heuheu to the Board of Māori Television, with the explicit expectation that she would become chair. This seemed like a fairly blatant case of cronyism, so I submitted the usual OIA request seeking background details of the appointment.

After a lengthy delay, I received the response today. Sadly, in this case, there isn't much of a paper trail - no briefing to the Minister of the need to make an appointment to fill an upcoming vacancy, and no paper requesting the Minister to choose between several nominated and interviewed candidates. The only formal documentation is a paper to the Cabinet Appointments and Honours Committee [PDF], seeking approval for te Heuheu's nomination, and a subsequent appointment letter. The Minister does give an outline of the process in their response letter [PDF], but it is deeply unsatisfactory:

In response to your request, I can advise you that this position was not advertised. While there is scope for it to happen, state sector board positions are not usually publicly advertised. various state sector agencies manage registers of qualified candidates who are interested in being nominated for boards, and departments usually seek nominations from these registers...

In line with the usual appointment process as outlined above, I requested a list of candidates from Te Puni Kokiri for consideration for this position. Candidates for this position were nominated from the registers held by the treasury's Crown Ownership Monitoring Unit, the Ministry of Women's Affairs, and Te Puni Kokiri. Te Puni Kokiri provided a list of five nominees. the successful candidate was nominated for the position by me and the Minister of Finance, as jointly responsible Ministers for the Maori Television Service.

From this, and the lack of supporting documentation, it appears the Ministers simply imposed their shoulder-tapped candidate on the Maori Television Service, without even considering those other candidates. And again, that's simply not how things are supposed to happen. Appointments should be made on merit, not on political connections.

Quite apart from pissing on our reputation for clean government, Sharples and English have done te Heuheu a disservice. She's not Wayne Mapp, and its not inconceivable that she would have won a competitive appointments process. By not running one, English and Sharples have forever tainted her as a crony, who gained her position by favourtism rather than merit. And she deserves better than that.