Readers will recall the fuss over John Key making a phone call to Ian Fletcher informing him of the GCSB vacancy. Labour would have had you believe this was an unprecedented ministerial involvement.
As has happened in all the recent appointments that Labour has criticised, all were recommended by a panel of neutral civil servants.
This got me thinking. Has there even been an interview panel that didn’t include just neutral civil servants but a Minister?
It’s one thing to have the Minister sign off on an appointment, but do you want Ministers actually sitting on CEO interview panels? Wouldn’t that be far worse than merely making a phone call.
So I asked the State Services Commission if any Ministers in the last 14 years have sat on interview panels for state sector chief executives. They replied that this has happened on four occasions – in 2000, 2004, 2007 and 2008.
What is disturbing about these ministerial membership of appointment panels is all the roles were ones of pivotal importance to our democratic institutions. They were:
- 2000 – Margaret Wilson on interview panel for the Solicitor-General
- 2004 – Trevor Mallard on interview panel for the State Services Commissioner
- 2007 – Michael Cullen on interview panel for the Clerk of the House of Representatives
- 2008 – David Parker on interview panel for the State Services Commissioner
So this puts it all into perspective – a phone call, vs actually sitting on the interview panel – which means you are effectively hand picking your preferred candidate.
Ministers should be consulted on recommendations and for some roles they make the final appointment. But i think it is generally undesirable for Ministers to sit on interview panels for state sector chief executives. It is rather hypocritical to complain about bad process in appointments, when they did far far worse themselves.
The OIA response is here – Scan-to-Me from 11-util2 ssc govt nz 2013-05-15 124921