Wednesday, August 08, 2018

More cronyism

Oh look! More cronyism from Labour. This time they've appointed the partners of two former MPs to a charity trust:

The partners of two former Labour MPs have been controversially appointed to the South Island's largest charity – the $600 million Rata Foundation.

Jane Sherriff and Philippa Burns are the latest appointments to the 12–member board of the former Canterbury Community Trust, which distributes about $18m in grants each year.

Rata made $42m from its investments in the year to the end of March 2017 and spent about $4m on administration and expenses.

Sherriff is the partner of former Labour minister Clayton Cosgrove and Burns is the wife of Brendon Burns, who was Labour MP for Christchurch Central between 2008 and 2011 and stood for Kaikoura twice without success.

This sort of appointment just reeks of cronyism, and as a result the Minister has been forced to go into detail about the process used to appoint them. Which includes this bit:
After advice from the Department of Internal Affairs, he had sought nominations from community trusts and from the caucuses of the Coalition Government in March and April 2018.

And this is the problem in a nutshell. Its done for every significant appointment, and odds are, if the final appointee is party-affiliated, they entered the process not by applying like a normal person, but because their name was given directly to the Minister by a fellow MP. Which immediately makes their appointment a prima facie favour and act of political patronage rather than anything to do with merit.

There's a name for dispensing government positions as favours and rewards: its called cronyism and corruption. And its not acceptable in New Zealand. And if we want to stamp it out, the best way to do so would be to end this institution of suggesting people to the Minister, requiring everyone to apply up-front, be considered on their merits by an independent panel, and requiring the Minister to report to Parliament or publish a gazette notice whenever they disagree with its findings. This sort of process is used in the State Sector Act for appointing chief executives, and it has been largely successful in preventing crony appointments in the senior public service. But given our politicians established culture of cronyism, we clearly need to extend it further, to board appointments as well.