Wednesday, June 19, 2019

An invitation to corruption

When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hired a lobbyist to set up her government in 2017, she assured us that everything was above board and any conflicts of interest would be managed. She lied:

The lobbyist who served as the prime minister’s closest adviser during the early days of the coalition government appears to have failed to comply with commitments he made to disclose conflicts of interest on an ongoing basis, according to documents released to The Spinoff under the Official Information Act.


The prime minister recently told parliament that the potential conflicts of interests were managed because Thompson was subject to codes of conduct and signed a declaration about conflicts of interest.

But documents show Thompson’s initial disclosure to Ministerial Services didn’t identify the firm’s clients and suggest that Thompson failed to comply with the undertakings he had made in the declaration to keep Ministerial Services informed on an ongoing basis about potential conflicts of interest, raising questions about a breach of government rules around conduct in the public service.

Effectively Ardern and Ministerial Services left it entirely up to Thompson to identify any problems, and he didn't. Which simply isn't good enough. With the integrity of our government and political system on the line, I'd expect something a little more proactive - like forcing him to identify his clients, and then firewalling him from anything to do with anything they might be interested in (such as appointments to agencies they lobby). While there's no evidence he behaved corruptly in the role (because we don't know who his clients were), ignorance isn't a good enough standard. Our government must not only be honest - it must be seen to be so. And Thompson's appointment and behaviour simply fails that test.