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Ombudsman Exposes Shabby Cover-up

Murray McCully National Party MP
26 February 2004

Ombudsman Exposes Shabby Cover-up

Today's Ombudsman's report into the Immigration Service exposes the internal report by the Secretary of Labour as "a shabby cover-up" and poses serious questions of those who were responsible for it, says National MP Murray McCully.

"The Ombudsman finds that the actions of officials were 'contrary to law' and 'wrong' within the context of his legislation. Those are very serious findings indeed.

"Where the Secretary of Labour found 'no evidence that officials deliberately misled the Ombudsman', the Ombudsman himself found that there was 'a deliberate attempt to avoid reference to the real information being sought', that officials knew what information was being sought by the Ombudsman and 'deliberately dissembled'.

"The report poses serious questions about those responsible for the earlier cover-up which has now been exposed," says Mr McCully.

"James Buwalda, the Secretary of Labour, who presided over the cover-up, must go. The Parliament and the public can have no confidence in a chief executive who refuses an independent inquiry, exonerates his department, and is then exposed as wrong by the Ombudsman. It was always a big call by Dr Buwalda to refuse an independent inquiry into a matter so grave. He made that call and now he must take the consequences.

"State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham on several occasions refused my request that this matter be looked at independently. Now he must be held to account for his participation in this matter.

"The Prime Minister refused to require an independent inquiry and allowed the shabby cover-up to proceed. Indeed, it is arguable that the State Services Commissioner and the Secretary of Labour made their foolish decisions because they did not want to cross the Prime Minister. The simple fact is that Helen Clark was quite content to try and sweep this matter under the carpet. Now she must account for her actions.

"The findings made by the Ombudsman in today's report are a damning verdict not just on the actions of two public servants, but on those of a department which is contemptuous of its obligations to the Parliament, the public, and the Ombudsman. That the Prime Minister, her Ministers, the State Services Commissioner and the Secretary of Labour were prepared to stand in the way of an independent inquiry reflects no credit upon them whatsoever.

"We can only be grateful that the Office of the Ombudsman exists to protect the public interest where the Prime Minister, Ministers and chief executives fail in their responsibilities to do so," says Mr McCully.


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