The behaviour of certain MFAT managers

December 13th, 2013 at 9:16 am by David Farrar

A tier 3 manager is a very senior manager. They are one step off the executive team who report to the CEO. They are the managers who manage large sections or teams within an organisation.

The Rebstock report into the behaviour of a number of Tier 3 managers at shows an alarming lack of political neutrality and professionalism. These are not junior staffers, but what should be trusted senior public servants. Some extracts:

  • Nine Tier 3 managers misreported to the investigation how they handled the HOM’s joint letter and so misled the investigation.
  • Two Tier 3 managers (no longer employed by MFAT) were so opposed to
    the change proposals they ignored the fact that the consultation was a staff in confidence process. … They encouraged or supplied unauthorised government information to the partners group and the FSA for use in their public campaigns and encouraged former New Zealand diplomats to lobby Ministers directly.
  • The evidence obtained by the investigation, as outlined in this section, showed that [Y] and [Z] engaged in a strategy designed to ensure the change proposals did not
    become a reality. This strategy included working outside the staff in confidence consultation process prescribed by the Secretary.
  • This pattern of ignoring the requirement to protect the confidentiality of discussions in the Division Directors’ meetings continued through March 2012. On several occasions [Y] forwarded his notes of these meetings and other communications intended only for senior managers to other MFAT staff outside his own team, including the FSA President, who were not attendees at the meetings or intended recipients of other communications.

Persons Y and Z have been named as and . Leask is now retired, but Fyfe is a Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Justice.

I can not imagine how the Secretary of Justice, or Ministers, could possibly have any confidence in Fyfe , in light of the evidence of the Rebstock report that he passed on confidential documents to people not authorised to have them. I would think the SIS would have grounds to revoke his security clearance. Note I am not saying he leaked outside MFAT – but if your employer says this is for tier 3 and 2 managers only, you don’t e-mail it to other staff.

More to the point, how could the Secretary of Justice have confidence that any restructuring at Justice wouldn’t be undermined and confidential information given to unauthorised persons?

And let us not think this was about any high and mighty noble purpose. Rebstock notes:

It is natural for every public servant to want to protect their own personal interests, but they have a duty to the Government and to their organisation not to use their professional position, including access to Ministers, to promote their personal interests.

Those who leaked to Labour sold out their department and their neutrality to keep their 30 pieces of silver.

It is not known who within MFAT was talking to Labour, but calls were made directly to Phil Goff from MFAT conference rooms.

MFAT telephone records for 2 April 2012 show a call to the Labour Party Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade’s cellphone number at 4.54pm. The call lasted seven minutes 44 seconds. The telephone used was installed in a small meeting room on Level 14. The whole of Level 14 is accessible only with security
cards.

Incredible – one or more MFAT staffers calling an Opposition MP on his cellphone from a secure MFAT conference room.

MFAT’s email records, between 26 March 2012 and early May 2012, show [Y] exchanging emails with a reporter from the Fairfax Political Bureau. The reporter appears to have initiated this exchange after a work trip to Seoul which they had both attended. [Y] met the reporter for coffee on 23 April 2012 and for a drink on the evening of 2 May 2012. The investigation has not been able to establish what was discussed at these meetings. [Y] said his reason for meeting the reporter was to seek information about current issues at his new employer.

Yeah, right. You don’t meet a journalist to find out what is happening with your employer. You meet to tell them what is happening.

Furthermore, [Y] did not resile from his actions during the MFAT change process and submitted that his behaviour was justified because the change proposals were unprecedented and the management of the process was “deeply flawed”.

So as I read this Fyfe is saying he would do the same again, if he disagree with a restructuring process. That would make me very nervous if I was his employer.

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34 Responses to “The behaviour of certain MFAT managers”

  1. NK (913 comments) says:

    The ends justifies the means – a typical militant leftie argument. You hear this from the Greens all the time.

    What’s more shocking is that Phil Goff was on the radio this morning saying Fyfe is a “hero”.

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  2. alex Masterley (1,437 comments) says:

    Unbelievable.

    I bet Judith Collins won’t be too impressed about what is revealed in the report.

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  3. freethinker (648 comments) says:

    Begs the question on the digitization of court records and filings and if this has been sabotaged, only sure way is to remove this person review or dump all his work and ensure he never works in the public sector again.

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  4. flipper (3,261 comments) says:

    Good stuff David….

    And when the Dominion Post’s editorial view, self serving and absurdly defensive as it is, run this morning is examined, the credibility of our news media has reached a new low.

    MFAT is NOT a piddly administrative organisation. Along with SIS it handles the most sensitive of Government and inter-Government issues. By comparison the Treasury is dealing with tiddly winks.

    But then the intellectual arrogance of the MFAT staffers is such that this whole episode is no surprise.

    Far from being a waste of time and money as labour and DomPost assert, it is a timely and cost effective wake up. A reading of the full report is essential to understand how thorough Rebstock has been.

    Oh, en passant, may we expect Fyfe to do the honourable thing, or will he follow silly Red Len’s example????

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  5. Huevon (100 comments) says:

    Typical passive-aggressive butthurtness from a leftist.

    Looks like game over for this guy’s timeserving career on the public’s dime.

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  6. BeaB (1,944 comments) says:

    Fyfe needs to be banned from any meetings with the Minister, any Ministerial papers or actions, any Cabinet papers. Effectively, he will be unable to do the job we are paying him for.

    I am amazed National Radio ran the line, with Phil Goff being given his usual free pass by wimpy Simon Mercep, that he was some kind of whistle blower, a noble champion of workers’ rights, when he failed in the most basic duty of a public servant, especially at his level of seniority.

    He and Phil Goff make me feel ill. This is corruption plain and simple.

    No government can operate if our top public servants race off to the phone to blab to the opposition. How can these appalling people be trusted to represent us overseas or keep national secrets? They call into question the whole of MFAT.

    If Phil Goff had any integrity he would have refused the information. He should now apologise to the nation and resign.

    So should Fyfe and never be employed again in the public service.

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  7. queenstfarmer (696 comments) says:

    This is a political corruption of the civil service by the Labour Party. Call me naiive, but this really saddens me.

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  8. In Vino Veritas (136 comments) says:

    Fyfe appears to be the classic tail trying to wag the dog. The man’s security clearance should be revoked forthwith, and with that, his ability to do his job. He either leaves, or gets demoted so far down the chain he will want to leave.

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  9. thePeoplesFlag (101 comments) says:

    “…The Rebstock report into the behaviour of a number of Tier 3 managers at MFAT shows an alarming lack of political neutrality and professionalism….”

    Making unsubstantiated by any evidence whatsoever accusations against managers in MFAT is also highly unprofessional and bullying behaviour. Since Rebstock is little more than hired gun government stooge, I guess it is a bit of partisan tit for tat from someone who got paid a pile of taxpayers money for no result.

    National’s legacy is a poisoned and politicised civil service, full of their right wing drones at the top trying to impose ridiculous cuts on resentful staff, who leak as a result.

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  10. Keeping Stock (9,786 comments) says:

    Johnathan Coleman has absolutely ripped into Goff in a presser. Among other things he notes:

    “Mr Goff is running his reputation into the ground. Just two days ago he leaked confidential information from the Office of the Auditor-General briefing to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee. As a result he’s now subject to a Privileges Committee complaint. Earlier this year, he broke a coroner’s suppression order, and received a warning from Police.
    “Frankly Mr Goff’s actions shows a consistent disrespect for the law, for Parliamentary processes and for political convention.”

    Apart from a three-year election-enforced absence between 1990 and 1993, Phil Goff has been in Parliament since 1981. If David Cunliffe wants to start a process of rejuvenation in his caucus, the MP for Roskill would be a good starting point.

    http://keepingstock.blogspot.co.nz/2013/12/coleman-on-goff.html

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  11. david (2,482 comments) says:

    So:
    Goff needs to put his underpants on the inside of his trousers , he is no superhero and needs to come out of this smelling of shit.
    Person [X] sounds remarkably like someone who may have been a contributor at The Standard judging from the complete absence of morals or ethical standards. He (it was a he?) must have some sort of flag on his name that prevents him from ever working in a position of responsibility in the Public Service again. If he is innocent (as unlikely as that sounds) it is bad luck but the public good outweighs luck on that one and he is not worth the risk.

    Employers should be careful in assessing the CV of someone who’s work history mimics what we know from the Rebstock report.

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  12. OneTrack (1,950 comments) says:

    [Y] is just another leftie who thinks democracy is a quaint idea whose time has long past. He has his “mission” and the voters of New Zealand voting in a National government wasn’t going to get in his way.

    The leftie totalitarian mindset – ain’t it wonderful.

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  13. Ashley Schaeffer (336 comments) says:

    And I used to think that Goff was one of the good guys. Not leadership material, but definitely a leftie I had a measure of respect for. Jonathan Coleman is correct, Phil Goff’s reputation is in tatters and the sooner he leaves Parliament, the better.

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  14. Oskar (33 comments) says:

    MFAT was formed in the late 1980’s from the merger of the old Dept of Foreign Affairs with the Trade Policy Divisions of the old Dept of Trade and Industry. This is the first time since than that MFAT has faced a restructuring on anything like the scale the rest of public service has had to regularly face over last couple decades, and obviously they did not like it as they obviously felt immune to the types of changes other mere mortals had to face.
    They also did a good job in cultivating their Ministers into what the New Zealand view of the world should be. In McCully they seem to have struck a Minister who could not be cultivated and who had an agenda that differed from theirs. To quote Lance Corporal Jones from “Dads Army” – “they don’t like it up em”.

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  15. OneTrack (1,950 comments) says:

    thePeoplesFlag – “National’s legacy is a poisoned and politicised civil service, full of their right wing drones”

    No, what the report shows is that there already is a poisoned and politicised civil service – hard-left, big state and actively supporting the hard-left Labour and Green parties.

    Who cares what the proletariat, I mean voters, think – what would they know.

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  16. queenstfarmer (696 comments) says:

    @thePeoplesFlag:

    Rebstock is little more than hired gun government stooge

    Rebstock is a highly regarded civil service who had numerous appointments by the previous Labour government. The fact that you see fit to smear someone just because you don’t like what their report has revealed, highlights the problem.

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  17. Manolo (12,607 comments) says:

    Phil Goff’s reputation is in tatters and the sooner he leaves Parliament, the better.

    Very unlikely, unfortunately.
    Goff is a perennial trougher, who will milk the system until the very last minute of his miserable existence.

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  18. Bill Ted (59 comments) says:

    I met Goff several years ago and found him to be one of the good ones. I still would prefer he is in the Labour Party than out of it, he provides a bit more balance to some of the more tribal MPs, expecially on the TPP. But I agree, his behaviour over these leaks and breaches of confidentiality etc is inexcusable. He’s lost the plot a bit and needs to step back and think more rationally about his actions.

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  19. James Stephenson (1,880 comments) says:

    Just to put this is even more context – how much does one of these Tier 3 managers pull from our taxpaying pockets?

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  20. Jack5 (4,208 comments) says:

    Why is everyone so suprised? These are the bright girls and boys who shone at school except at maths. They likely had pushy parents and had to perform for them, and very likely grew up in Wellington. It was either cram for straight A’s in arts subjects or defiantly divert into drugs or some other sad side route.

    With such a small population pool, and with our egalitarian employment traditions, you are going to be left with more narcissists than is healthy.

    Would MFAT be better if we had more appointments to diplomatic posts from outside MFAT?

    I’m thinking of Washington with Mike Moore as ambassador. It’s a double win: Moore seems to be doing a good job (except on copyright, on Pharmac, and on Fonterra), and it keeps a chattering political celebrity out of NZ and off Radio Labour.

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  21. Colville (1,765 comments) says:

    I am sure there is a trough ready and waiting at the UN for Goof to dip his snout into. Sooner the better I say.

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  22. burt (7,083 comments) says:

    Goff seems to have done the training required to be sufficiently corrupt and self serving to join Clarkenstien at the UN. Will Goff get a job there before Taito Field does ?

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  23. Ross12 (926 comments) says:

    This episode shows how some of senior bureaucrats live and work in a “bubble” in Wellington. They also show a complete lack of understanding of how communications technology has changed the working environment in recent years. Maybe 10-15 years+ ago they would have got away with this unethical nonsense but today there are so many ways they can “be found out”.

    I agree with Ashley Schaeffer @10.02 –I also thought Goff was one of the better Labour MPs but sorry Phil you have joined Len Brown in my level of respect.

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  24. Chris2 (703 comments) says:

    I previously worked alongside MFAT staff on and off over many years, including brief stints at New Zealand overseas missions.

    The long lingering opinion that has remained with me is that whilst MFAT staff work long hard hours, they are also utterly consumed by status, their place in the MFAT pecking order, and their perks and allowances.

    The generosity of some of these allowances is such that there are more than a handful of millionaires in the MFAT office – money paid to long-serving staff who have been years overseas on diplomatic postings where your salary increases dramatically, and you are housed free of charge, your power, gas, phone is paid for, your kids go to the best local school paid for by the NZ taxpayer, and meanwhile they rent out their home back in New Zealand. About the only personal expense for a diplomat abroad, is food!

    Several years ago at a NZ Embassy in Europe a recently arrived Counsellor tried to convince me to endorse his attempt to break the lease on a property he and his wife didn’t like for no other reason than there was no place to garage his car. Breaking the lease would have cost the NZ taxpayer 30,000 Euros, so I said No, I would not support him. .

    The point of my mentioning all this is that the reason the documents were leaked in the first place was one of pure self-interest – the diplomats knew the restructuring would see a change in the privileges and perks they enjoyed. And of course we now know the identity of the leakers – yes, former diplomats.

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  25. Kimble (4,092 comments) says:

    The generosity of some of these allowances is such that there are more than a handful of millionaires in the MFAT office…

    A hold-over from a by-gone era.

    Well done MFAT, you’ve raised your head above the parapet. Now everyone there will get to enjoy the economic rationalism that the rest of government has felt for the last few decades. Welcome to the 80′s, 90′s, and 00′s.

    There is some logic in paying the people you have to trust a lot of money. There is no logic in continuing to pay them a lot when that trust is betrayed.

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  26. tvb (3,937 comments) says:

    This is close to treason or it would be if they were leaking to non New Zealanders. Goff had no right to be going around the Minister and approach the Department directly. But they should have rebuffed him. I do not see how person Y can keep his job at Justice. Time will tell on that. I do not understand the partners’ group. They were also manipulating the process with authorised information. That cannot be washed over.

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  27. burt (7,083 comments) says:

    tvb

    It’s courageous corruption … it was done to help Labour gain office.. Please move on…

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  28. burt (7,083 comments) says:

    Kimble

    There is no logic in continuing to pay them a lot when that trust is betrayed.

    Socialists have an entitlement to a) ignore the rules they make for others and b) spend as much of other peoples money as they want in their own best interests.

    If Labour had their way these people would be getting a big bonus of tax payers money for their role in helping Labour …

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  29. OneTrack (1,950 comments) says:

    tvb – “Time will tell on that. ”

    The public service unions will make sure they dont go anywhere.

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  30. tvb (3,937 comments) says:

    I get the impression that this is about protecting some very generous perks especially for families. The involvement of the partners’ group was for no other purpose than to protect those perks. It was an error of judgement to permit this group to operate especially as they used every cunning trick in the book to protect their pampered existence.

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  31. Random Punter (54 comments) says:

    “…this is about protecting some very generous perks especially for families.”

    What perks would those be, tvb? Forgoing your spouses’ income for years at a time, disrupting your children’s upbringing and education by uprooting your family every few years and transporting them to often difficult and sometimes dangerous and unhealthy environments? Not every post is a Washington or Paris, you know.

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  32. hmmokrightitis (1,458 comments) says:

    @ James…

    “Just to put this is even more context – how much does one of these Tier 3 managers pull from our taxpaying pockets?”

    It ranges from around $100K to anything up to just under $200K for the more senior ones with higher levels of responsibility, more staff, more marketable skills etc. For eg, I was a level 3 in a GD running change within the organisation, 20 projects under my control, 50 staff, on $195K.

    They are senior people who are smart enough to know better.

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  33. Bad__Cat (117 comments) says:

    thePeoplesFlag – “National’s legacy is a poisoned and politicised civil service, full of their right wing drones”

    Only the far left loonies can look at a series of clear facts and state the exact opposite without feeling at least a bit embarrassed.

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  34. Lucy (32 comments) says:

    This is the behaviour of self-indulgent, self absorbed bureaucrats. I’m sick of MFAT staff – jet setting around the world, attending cocktail parties, filling out claim forms, while their partners go shopping and their children get raised by a tax payer funded nanny and become more and more spoiled. They are pigs at the trough. The government needs to cut, cut, cut MFAT and actually make them accountable for what they aren’t doing – working! The public should be in an absolute uproar over that bureaucracy and the amount of money they cost us. To think that some cleaner is breaking their back for minimum wage and their taxes are going towards that disgusting department, should make all of us sick.

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