State Of It: Multiple Degrees Of Incompetence and Why Donors Are Pulling The Plug On National
Column By Selwyn Manning.
The latest in a long saga of botch-ups is the WINZ, Ministry of Social Development, computer kiosk scandal. Clearly this is an absolute shocker. More so, considering the Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett had earlier written to Finance Minister Bill English that she should would personally keep a close eye on the rollout of information service terminals, the Kiosks, and other operational reform projects, designed to save the government money. In Australia, this minister would likely be sacked immediately for failing to ensure the ministry was managed satisfactorily and that third party expert warnings that the ICT network was insecure, were looked in to.
For details of this scandal, see Keith Ng’s MSD’s Leaky Servers investigation on PublicAddress.net.
Who is responsible? Yes clearly managers at the Ministry are responsible. But so is the minister, and if she doesn’t know that as fact, then she should.
Also this week we discover Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman’s Ministry of Defence, the Air Force wing, has admitted that it transported dangerous goods, had eight times potentially endangered the lives of hundreds of civilians onboard Air New Zealand flights – including “seriously endangering” passengers on an Air New Zealand flight to Canada.
The New Zealand Herald this week reported: The Royal New Zealand Air Force breached Air New Zealand’s rules with an illegal shipment of chemical oxygen generators on a Boeing 747 flight to Vancouver on August 23, 2009. There was a risk the cylinders could explode inflight while under pressure as had occurred in a US air accident that killed 118 people.
The Herald reported that Coleman’s Air Force also admitted that it “mis-led” the Civil Aviation Transport Accident Investigation Commission in 2009 over the above incident.
The Herald also cited from a report initiated after the ANZAC Day 2010 helicopter tragedy, details of how the Air Force had only adopted 47 percent of safety recommendations in the past 10 years.
That is deeply disturbing and presents a culture of pro-risk air jocks that are willing to lie in unison to official inquiry bodies so as to preserve their guilty little secrets.
For more on this scandal see the NZ Herald’s David Fisher reports.
That information has come to light only after the cited report was instigated. There is a deeper problem in that the Minister of Defence Jonathan Coleman has not publicly moved to address this culture of law and rule breaking by this country’s Air Force. Surely, Coleman is paid to front foot these issues, demand change, demand evidence be acquired by third party inquirers, subsequent findings be reported back to him with recommendations and solutions included for him to consider, and ultimately for him to face up to his responsibilities as a minister and ensure the Air Force is operating satisfactorily, safely, and within the law.
His failure to move on this demonstrates his own incompetence and disregard to the public interest.
Likewise with the Minister of Police Anne Tolley. After the New Zealand Police appeared to have either lied to the High Court – while attempting to cover up the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB)’s involvement in illegal surveillance of Kim Dotcom and his crew – or the Police was not revealing the whole truth on that matter to the High Court. Was this move a cover-up? Was it an attempt, albeit a failed attempt, to ensure the judiciary and the public remained unaware of the illegal surveillance?
These are major issues that question the motivations, ethics, and morality of New Zealand’s Police right up to the highest level. The Minister of Police – the public’s representative of sorts – has been silent on this. Tolley has refused to answer media questions about the Police’s role in the GCSB Dotcom surveillance case.
That lack of inquiry, that lack of governance interest, that apparent abuse of the public interest is a disgrace.
The Prime Minister!
His refusal to initiate an Independent Inquiry into this scandal is scandalous in the extreme. The Public’s confidence in the security agency’s ability to respect the rule of law in this country has been eroded, clearly. The Prime Minister says he is disappointed in the GCSB, he says he has instructed a member of his Beehive department (the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet) to review the function of the GCSB. He called for the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security to report back on the illegal surveillance. But all these initiatives are retrospective, and they are all close to the problem. They are all retrospective moves after the fact.
The public is left wondering does John Key, as the man in charge of the GCSB, the Security Intelligence Service, and the National Assessments Bureau, spend enough time on heading these most important security agencies? Is his relaxed demeanor too blokey, too she’ll be right, too I wanna be your friend mate, in attitude to ensure a strict culture of accountability is assured? There is enough in what we now know to suggest the nation should be concerned.
And it appears that concern is spreading, as can be gleaned by the findings of a recent TV3 poll where 52 percent of those polled said they thought John Key was too relaxed for the job.
Has that too relaxed culture around Key infected others in the Beehive? Have we a gaggle of good guys ponsing around the corridors of power, enjoying the Baubles of Office while distancing themselves from the responsibilities of direct governance and accountability?
It appears so.
The Prime Minister On John Banks!
Remember the fiasco over the Prime Minister insisting ACT leader and Government minister John Banks continued to enjoy his confidence even after a damning Police report into the John Banks mayoralty donations scandal. No charges were laid but it could be argued that a reasonably minded New Zealander would deduct that John Banks’ conduct was less than honorable. Surely the Prime Minister was honor bound to read the Police report to discern, from an informed position, whether Banks was deserving of his trust. But the Prime Minister refused to read the report. His justification for maintaining his confidence in John Banks was that he had not read anything to change his mind. When directed to read the Police report on its findings into the scandal, John Key refused saying he didn’t need to read it, that he was not a forensic analyst, that he didn’t need to read the detail. Therefore the public was left to fathom that the Prime Minister remained assured that John Banks was a conscientious and capable minister with integrity due to the Prime Minister’s ignorance.
That weird position taken by the Prime Minister reached its zenith a week before the GCSB scandal broke. In the aftermath we discovered that John Key couldn’t remember if he had been briefed of the illegal surveillance by the agency he is in charge of. We are left wondering does he read his briefs? Is he too relaxed to be bothered?
These are HUGE issues that when stacked up end to end create a picture of a shambles.
We have seen Hekia Parata’s bombastic snide reaction when taking a jab at teachers for their supposed mispronouncing of students’ names. We have seen her refuse to front up on the closure of Christchurch schools, and especially refuse to front over the incompetent use of incorrect data by her Ministry relating to those schools. Where is the accountability factor? It is absent.
SkyCity Convention Centre Deal!
Earlier we became aware of the Prime Minister tampering in the selection process for a new convention centre in Auckland, indicating SkyCity casino would be the benefactor and that the Government would reward it by changing the law to allow it more pokie machines on its CBD site.
We saw the weirdness of former minister of ACC Nick Smith resigning over an apparent conflict of interest and misuse of his ministerial office relating to an ACC claimant.
Christchurch Rebuild & Ministerial Insults!
We have seen the ongoing cruel saga in Christchurch where thousands of families still have not got settlement over whether their homes are covered by insurance, while the Minister, Gerry Brownlee, belches forth with a tirade of offensiveness labeling those who had the cheek to rate the recovery progress as being unsatisfactory, as being moaners and whingers.
Meanwhile, the Government noted that a reduction in its budget deficit from $18 billion to $9.2 billion was assisted by a deferment of Christchurch earthquake recovery costs. I’m doubtful Cantabrians will be thrilled to realise their ongoing misery could be intentional so the Government can present its accounts with a dusting of positive spin.
State Owned Enterprise Share Sell-Offs!
We have seen the Government this week embark on its plan to partially sell shares in state owned energy companies on the stock market – even though it expects challenges over water resource use by groups representing Maori ownership rights. And there is the odd position taken by the Finance Minister, Bill English, who insists that the absurd is so: that any litigation will not erode the share price people are prepared to pay for a slice of these companies – despite the likely fact these companies will face ongoing court costs, potential hikes in operating costs, further falls in returns from commodity market price collapses etc. Commonsense suggests where there is uncertainty relating to a business’ viability, or questions relating to the legal use of its primary energy source – that there will be an erosion of the value of share bundles, that the shares will not reach their initial potential market price.
Summary Of A Train-Wreck:
All governments have their problems with ensuring their ministries, departments, security agencies, and entities operate satisfactorily and in the public’s interest. But at no time in the past two decades can I remember such a cluster of incompetence bubbling up to surface in the public arena.
What concerns me is this John Key Government has made an art-form out of doing something about a problem only when the public becomes aware of it.
Once the public has a handle on an issue of national disgrace, the minister ‘in charge’ acts out an element of horror that goes something like this: ‘oh I have been told by [insert name of Ministry or Department here] that a serious [insert name of issue or scandal here] has occurred. I can assure the public that I am disappointed that this has occurred, and I can assure the public of New Zealand I will investigate this matter thoroughly until I am satisfied the issue will not happen again.’
What is lacking time and time again is a satisfactory inquiry into why we have so many scandals, so many major issues of government incompetence, and why this National-led Government appears to be such a train-wreck pulling along with it a long-line of carriages full of ministries and departments. The tapestry is one of a Government out of control. That is not leadership, that is incompetence and it is a shambles.
As a consequence, the National Party is soliciting cash from its MPs – who are being told to cough up to $30,000 each this year to bolster its Party’s accounts, to prepare a fighting fund buffer for the 2014 General Election.
All political pundits worth their salt know that the first sign of a government being tossed out of office is when exporters, manufactures, and property developers refuse to make donations to a governing party’s campaign fighting fund.
National is suffering this phenomenon now.
What follows is a mood of dissatisfaction that seeps through the regions and into the provinces.
This is advanced when a government insists remedies to sector problems lie in the status quo rather than within new ideas, new solutions founded on evidence-based policy. When this occurs – and it has occurred with respect to the export-led, manufacturing sectors reliant on Government developing policies that connect to the fast moving economic times – then it demonstrates a government disconnected from the wants of exporters and industry. The consequential effect is this dislocation of sorts begins to show in the polls. And once a governing party’s provincial support dwindles, its term in office is under threat.
Considering the above, is it any wonder.