SST also calls for Matthews to go

February 22nd, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Almost every major newspaper has now called for to do the decent thing and resign. The latest is the Sunday Star-Times:

LET’S CONCEDE that Barry Matthews has a tough job. His department must look after the human wreckage that society has spurned: the lost, the vicious, the drunk and the addicted, the hopeless and the bent and twisted.

Absolutely. is as tough as it gets.

Let’s also concede that Corrections, for deep historical reasons, is not well placed to cope. The tough criminal culture has produced a tough culture among the guards. Attempts to change this culture are difficult and take time. One reason for the enthusiastic move to try private prisons all those years ago was the feeling that the state prison system was unreformable: a fresh start was needed.

And Labour’s killing off of this initiative is one of the most ideological stupid things they did. The state prison system does have a culture of corruption (the calls it “tough”, and this was a chance to help turn that around.

Does all this mean that Matthews should keep his job? No. The Auditor-General’s report is, in truth, a damning one and there can be no excuses for the trouble it uncovered. A year-long audit showed that despite the department’s spectacular failures in the case of murderers William Bell and Graeme Burton, Corrections continued to fail to do its job. This was not a case simply of not enough workers to carry out the tasks. It was just plain negligence and sloppiness. Dangerous prisoners walked free and no attempt was made to warn their victims. Others went out into the world and did not see a probation officer for weeks or months.

And it was not just an occassional lapse. It was in the majority of cases.
The public, in other words, was at risk because the department wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do. Matthews, as the chief executive of the department, must be accountable for these failings. He has been in charge for four years. That is long enough to ensure that those who work in the organisation do the job they are paid to do. These were not isolated shortcomings. They were frequent or systemic.
And it is the inability of Corrections to manage parole, probation and the likes, that leads to the demand to abolish parole.
Traditionally, we have demanded accountability either from the minister or the chief executive of a department; too often, both have declined to accept the blame. Judith Collins has the great good luck to be a new minister, and cannot fairly be blamed. The buck stops, therefore, with Matthews. No doubt he has done his best. No doubt he has worked hard to reform an intractable organisation that has had to bear impossible new loads. But in the end, the democratic system requires accountability. If Matthews will not resign, the State Services Commission must move or sack him.
It will be an interesting test for the SSC.
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15 Responses to “SST also calls for Matthews to go”

  1. greenfly (1,059 comments) says:

    and from the same article’

    “Collins and National, in other words, will luxuriate for a few years in the role of blameless accuser. They will say it is all Labour’s fault, or the bureaucrats’, or the teachers’, or whoever else offers an easy target. And eventually they too will have to answer for their actions”
    Now that’s perceptive (and prophetic too :-)

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  2. greenfly (1,059 comments) says:

    Or this from Finlay MacDonald (Sunday Star Times)
    “Nor will Judith Collins be the first minister of corrections to watch crowd-pleasing rhetoric and get-tough posturing run head on into the wall of brute reality.”
    Goodt to see that not everyone is blinded by the heat and light Collins likes to generate.

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  3. Patrick Starr (3,674 comments) says:

    Greenfly – why are you so hot for Nats women? You’ve got Bradford, Delahunty and Turei – stick to your own!

    you seem to have a rather unhealthy obsession with Collins

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  4. dad4justice (8,219 comments) says:

    I bet the National Women don’t shave as often as the green gals?

    Get a sense of humour phool addict.

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  5. philu (13,393 comments) says:

    what a strange little man you are..d4j..

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  6. mudrunner (91 comments) says:

    This problem is about failures of top leadership and management at Corrections down two levels at least, plus weak political will, (never mind the political posturing), moral (get rid of the goon squads) and financial (no budget support for the parole load), has made Corrections a hospital pass. I would not want the job and a quick check with others who would be perhaps better qualified regard it as a poisoned chalice.

    I suspect the SSC has been appointing CEOs on the basis of profiles that are consensus strong, problem solving and other touchy feely legacies of the tertiary management new models. No leadership now, it’s all about management. SSC is part of the problem.

    Matthews has to go but the options are rather stark. Get a new proven CEO from overseas and a combination of outsourcing and privatising the functions. This is going to take a few years to sort out. The Government has to strive for consensus so that the left doesn’t screw it up again when it gets a chance in nine years or so.

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  7. Viking2 (11,467 comments) says:

    One of the former Corrections Managers was on tele the other day and made the observation that had Mathews not been there the place would be way worse off.
    I saw comment yesterday that in Britian, prisons are full of people who should be in mental hospitals. That is true here also.
    The problem here is that Labour also pulled separate parts of corrections in to one dept. (as only Labour ever does. ) Wrong move and its parts should be separated and operated as different identities so that each can nail down its problems.
    Like all bureaucracies its unwieldy and politics will play a huge part in its failing. We are dealing with the worst of NZer’s and unfortunately environments taint the workers.
    Chop it up, divide and rule. Works every time.

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  8. Inventory2 (10,337 comments) says:

    Phili Ure said “what a strange little man you are..d4j..

    phil(whoar.co.nz)”

    Pot, meet kettle ;-)

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  9. greenfly (1,059 comments) says:

    IV2 – ‘kettle’ being dj4, right? (Sorry Phil, I mean that in the kindest way :-)

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  10. Inventory2 (10,337 comments) says:

    Very good greenfly – sheesh, might even have to give you positive karma for that gem :-)

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  11. greenfly (1,059 comments) says:

    Inventory2 – don’t do it, it’ll just throw me into a crazed spin of confusion. AAAAAAaaaaahhhhhhh!

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  12. slijmbal (1,236 comments) says:

    philu – serious question do you have a sticky full stop on the keyboard or the space bar is bust or something or is yours some new style of writing I’ve not heard about?

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  13. Leonidas (1,431 comments) says:

    Nah, he’s been doing it for ages…….
    …….Guess………
    …….it’s……
    …….just…..
    …….his……
    …….way….
    …….of……
    …….making……
    ……his…..
    …….posts…..
    …….take…..
    …….up…….
    …….more….
    ……..space….
    …….and…..
    …….deliver….
    ……..visual…..
    ……..impact….
    ……..where….
    ……..his……
    …….rhetoric……
    …….has……
    …….none…….

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  14. PhilBest (5,121 comments) says:

    DPF pointed out:

    “……And it was not just an occassional lapse. It was in the majority of cases…..”

    And that was AFTER a brutal re-awakening and public calls for a shake-up.

    I do not believe this is incompetence. I believe it is either a deliberate rort, where management and staff have agreed to turn up to work (if that) and collect their pay, and actually do very little; OR, this department (and probably many others) are so stacked with cringing liberals that they will simply not do the job required of them if it runs contrary to their ideology. They way these people think, criminals are “victims” who are not responsible for their actions, they have been tipped over the edge by a harsh society that refuses to share its wealth around lavishly enough; therefore it is morally right to leave those criminals in society to “punish” it; anyone bashed, raped, murdered, pillaged, or whatever, “deserved it”, same as the worst cringing liberals said about those who died in the Sept 11, 2001 attacks.

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  15. Nigel Kearney (1,012 comments) says:

    I don’t actually blame Matthews for the failures. Correction is completely dysfunctional. Given the culture and personnel of the department, and the legal framework they operate under, I think it would be a disaster under any chief executive. They could replace him with Jenny Shipley and get very little improvemnt.

    It is a classic case of being responsible but not to blame.

    What I don’t like is the weaselly way he responds when something bad happens. He can’t stop it happening again but he could be more forthright in accepting responsibility.

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