Scoop Today Special - News Analysis
"I share the Commissioner's view that debate over the incident has often tended to be out of proportion to events and has descended unnecessarily to an extremely personal and vicious level which serves no good purpose." - Christine Rankin - CEO Work And Income New Zealand (WINZ).
This afternoon State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham censured WINZ chief executive Christine Rankin over her department chartering an aircraft to take staff to a training conference at a cost of $165,000. And she has apologised - very contritely for it. See..Personal Statement - http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/GE9908/S00026.htm
Mr Wintringham's office is not releasing his written report to the Minister. Nor is the Minister's office.
The PM has now accepted the explanation, apparently, but it seems unlikely to end there. For a start we are still waiting on an Audit Office report into the same matters.
At this stage the fact the PM appears to have accepted the report (See... Prime Minister Satisfied With SSC Actions) may prove a turning point in what now looks likely to turn into an even larger and more bitter stouch.
The opposition is extremely unlikely to want to let go of this particularly juicy bone. Afterall it is not every public servant that dresses up in silver outfits and holds mock wedding ceremonies between nuns and priests for staff training.
This afternoon Mr Wintringham said the case of the charter aircraft illustrated a lack of financial discipline at WINZ and had impacted on the credibility of the organisation.
He said it also reflected badly on all other government departments, however it was not a sackable offence.
Mr Wintringham said the charter will cost Ms Rankin money in terms of the $37,000 performance bonus she might otherwise have been entitled to but he still had confidence in her ability to lead the department.
Christine Rankin then apologised saying.
"I have read Mr Wintringham's statement and will naturally be discussing the matters he has raised with the WINZ management team. I want to say at the outset that I accept the two conclusions he has reached. "There was a lack of financial discipline in organising the Wairakei event and I, as Chief Executive, accept ultimate responsibility for that."
"I also accept that investigation of the Wairakei episode has highlighted some deficiencies in our system of financial accountability.
Christine goes on to say she will be doing a few things to address the concerns raised by the commissioner.
Mrs Rankin's statement then turns to what Scoop would describe as talking the talk.
"We are not a bunch of form fillers. WINZ staff must be trained to deliver the right advice, to offer the appropriate support and to make every endeavour to find suitable employment for everyone who seeks it.
"If we're to succeed at this, WINZ staff need a huge degree of skill and commitment - in order not only to understand the complexities of a vast system but also to work with every person as an individual, with individual needs, to find an individual solution."
and then more defiantly as quoted above.
"However, I share the Commissioner's view that debate over the incident has often tended to be out of proportion to events and has descended unnecessarily to an extremely personal and vicious level which serves no good purpose.
"It is my sincere hope now that the debate will focus on the very real job that WINZ has to do and the very real progress we are making in doing it.
"As a department, WINZ must now be allowed to move on, to grow and to mature, and to continue to develop our place in the lives of New Zealanders.
Just how contrite this apology is in light of the level of angst in recent weeks is highly debateable.
Certainly as the links below indicate it is not going to be readily accepted politically.
POSTSCRIPT: Yesterday, a report by the Treasury and the State Service Commission raised concerns about the way WINZ was set up saying that the lack of a clear, overall strategic plan prior to the department being set up had slowed the merger down.
The report says that process created uncertainty for staff and stress as they had to implement new policy while not knowing if they would keep their jobs.
The report also said the delays in appointing Christine Rankin as chief executive had also caused problems. It suggested in the future that an interim boss should be appointed to oversee mergers of government departments.
Labour - Time to go, Christine - Labour in the wire.