he report was commissioned back in August after reports of multiple failures in the Covid-19 response. An early version was delivered to the Government on September 30, with a final version delivered on November 27.
National’s Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop criticised the lack of transparency exemplified by holding onto the report for so long.
Releasing the report soon after Ministers received it would have allowed some time for Parliamentary scrutiny. Instead, the Government decided to bury its release on the last working day of the political year – no time for scrutiny in Parliament or anywhere else.
They kept it back for 21 days.
It’s not hard to see why. The report is damning – and particularly damning of the Ministry of Health, the heroes of the Covid-19 response.
Of the 28 recommendations made across two reports, 25 were for the Ministry – the criticism is wide-ranging and accusations of what amounts to a power grab by the Ministry of Health, which didn’t properly share information with other ministries or even ministers and failed to cooperate properly with the rest of Government.
The report found that the there was “inappropriate accountability” for different parts of the strategy and that “numerous written reports” from the Ministry on progress it was making at the border “did not always reflect concrete action on the ground”.
The report said the Ministry’s approach to the implementation of policy “was often seen as being at odds with the overall collective interest”.
Testing rates – something we know is crucial to the keeping Covid out – were kept low because the Ministry was lax in actually paying the people doing the testing.
Unsurprisingly this led to “increased dissatisfaction with the system and at times made for reluctance to increase testing rates, consequently reducing access”.
Will there be any accountability for this? Of course not.
This can’t have been helped by the fact that the big cross-government group (All of Government group or AoG) set up to manage the pandemic didn’t actually include the Ministry of Health. The Ministry decided on its own not to participate.
Once the country went back into level 1, that problem deepened. The AoG “effectively became a ‘Rest of Government Unit’ being everything other than Health”.
That’s shocking. How could Ministers allow that?
The reviewers acknowledge that such chaos would be forgivable in the first weeks of the pandemic, but “it should not be continuing eight months into an issue as we are currently facing”.
It’s still going on?