The Fletcher appointment

Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:

Spy boss Ian Fletcher was not short-listed for the top job at the Government’s foreign spy agency – but applied after a phone call from Prime Minister John Key.

The short list – drawn up by a recruitment company – was rejected by State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie. …

Mr Rennie confirmed yesterday that he had rejected the short list. Mr Key said that after he and Mr Rennie “agreed to look elsewhere,” Mr Key phoned Mr Fletcher, who was working in Australia.

“[Mr Key] said that if he was interested in the position of director, GCSB, he would need to go through a process and should call Maarten Wevers in the first instance,” the statement from Mr Key said. Sir Maarten was head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet at the time.

Mr Fletcher was the only candidate interviewed by a panel made up of Sir Maarten, defence secretary John McKinnon and deputy state services commissioner Helene Quilter.

Mr Rennie said the “panel was unanimous . . . that Mr Fletcher was suitable for appointment”.

I think it is unfortunate the Prime Minister phoned Ian Fletcher to suggest he applies. While he would not have got the job if he wasn’t qualified, a phone call from the PM soliciting the application would carry weight with the State Services Commission.

I think Ministers should generally be very wary of suggesting people for state sector roles. David Parker, as Environment Minister,  endorsed Clare Curran for a role with the Environment Ministry, which was heavily scrutinised.

Now Fletcher has no political connections, but I think the same principle applies. Ministers are best to avoid involvement outside their formal roles.

A former diplomat, Mr Fletcher was chief executive officer of Queensland’s Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation when he was appointed. A high-flier in the British civil service, he had also worked for the European Commission and the United Nations.

Mr Key says he and Mr Fletcher met a “couple of times” when Mr Fletcher was in Queensland and no more than a “handful” of occasions between the mid-2000s and his GCSB appointment.

Mr Key disclosed the links to Mr Rennie during the appointment process.


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