Thursday, June 23, 2016

Paula Rebstock should pay for this

Back in 2012, after a campaign of leaks about its proposals to restructure MFAT, National announced an inquiry. Naturally, they appointed their go-to girl Paula Rebstock to investigate. And when she reported, it turned out to be a total hatchet job which ignored evidence and slandered innocent public servants, while failing to make a concrete case against the prime suspect.

Today, the Ombudsman has found that the leak inquiry was flawed, and recommended a formal apology and compensation to one of Rebstock's victims:

The Government has been told to compensate a former top diplomat whose career ended in tatters after he was targeted by an inquiry into leaks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Ombudsman Ron Paterson issued a report on Thursday slating the State Services Commission over its handling of the leak investigation.

The 2013 inquiry headed by Paula Rebstock resulted in senior diplomats Derek Leask and Nigel Fyfe being singled out , despite evidence that one of the most significant leaks originated from within the State Services Commission itself. The person responsible for that leak cannot be identified because of suppression orders.

While they were not named in the State Services Commission-ordered inquiry, Leask and Fyfe were easily identifiable and their conduct was publicly castigated by the State Services Commissioner and Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully.

Unfortunately, outgoing State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie seems to be refusing to do either. That's unthinkable. While technically not legally binding, the "recommendations" of the Ombudsman are always acted upon. And in this case, they need to be. An innocent public servant has been mistreated and defamed. The integrity of the public service depends on righting that wrong.

Meanwhile, its worth noting that Rebstock was paid $208,907 for this report, and was also awarded a knighthood for "services to the state". Now, it turns out to have been a dud. She should be forced not just to pay the money back, but also to pay any compensation to the victim. This is her fault, and she should pay the price.