Friday, July 26, 2013

Nonexistent oversight

If a senior state servant such as a Crown Entity board member joins the board of a political party, you'd expect their Minister to be informed of the conflict of interest and the measures which are being taken to manage it, right? Not if you work for Paula Bennett.

The senior state servant in question was Christine Rankin, who back in May announced that she had accepted a position as Chief Executive of the Conservative Party (oh, and that she'd been on its board since July 2012). This appears to have blindsided MSD, who didn't ask the State Services Commission for advice on the conflict of interest until after the position had been announced. And via FYI again, Paula Bennett seems to have been blissfully unaware of it:

I can advise that, apart from when Ms Rankin was first appointed a member of the Families Commission in 2009, I have not received any written advice concerning any conflicts of interest she may, or may not, have.

I am aware that Ministry officials had discussions with the State Services Commission in the week ending 10 May 2013 concerning Ms Rankin's appointment as Chief Executive of the Conservative Party. Those discussions took place at a time when I was in the process of replacing Ms Rankin as a member of the Families Commission.

But more important is what else she was blissfully unaware of. Rankin joined the board of the Conservative Party in July 2012. And no-one bothered to raise this with the Minister. While no-one has requested MSD or the Families Commission's end of things, IMHO it would be unbelievable for them not to have made her aware of it if they knew. This implies that Rankin did not tell them of a major conflict of interest involving her position.

But quite apart from any dishonesty on Rankin's part, this also tells us that Bennett's "oversight" of her portfolio is simply non-existent.