Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Not corrupt, just incompetent

The Office of the Auditor-General has released their report into Shane Jones' decision to grant citizenship to Yang Liu (AKA Yong Ming Yan). The short version? He wasn't corrupt, just a shit Minister:

Mr Jones had significant concerns about the advice he was given, but did not take steps to clarify that advice with other officials. He also knew that both the New Zealand Police and Immigration New Zealand were still actively investigating Mr Liu, but did not consult those agencies before making his decision. In keeping with his usual approach for ministerial decisions, he wanted to make a final decision quickly.

Mr Jones authorised granting citizenship to Mr Liu, effectively under section 9(1)(c) of the Citizenship Act. This provision gives Ministers a broad discretion to approve an application if there are exceptional circumstances that make it in the public interest, such as humanitarian concerns. He did not record the reasons for his decision, and Mr Liu's advisers were notified of his decision before the Department was notifed. This effectively deprived officials of an opportunity they might otherwise have had to correct the misunderstandings on which Mr Jones' decision was based.

The next day, Mr Jones annotated a letter from Mr Samuels in which Mr Samuels asked for consent to officiate at Mr Liu's citizenship ceremony. Department officials understood the annotation to be approval for a private ceremony and then gave approval for the ceremony to be held urgently. Mr Jones did not appreciate that the Act required him to approve a private ceremony or that the application did not satisfy the normal criteria for urgency.

(Emphasis added)

In most workplace, such an abysmal performance would result in retraining or sacking. In the Labour Party it apparently merits promotion. Go figure.

There's plenty of blame for the Department of Internal Affairs as well for failing to brief Jones properly and letting him behave in this fashion. The Auditor-General is recommending some changes in process to ensure that this doesn't happen again and that future decisions are publicly defensible.