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Curran inquiry findings 'incomprehensible'

Gerry Brownlee MP
National Party State Services Spokesman

20 December 2007

Curran inquiry findings 'incomprehensible'

National Party State Services spokesman Gerry Brownlee says an inquiry into the employment of Labour Party activist Clare Curran at the Environment Ministry is incomprehensible on a scale that Sir Humphrey Appleby would be proud of.

"Mark Prebble must think we are incredibly silly or exceptionally naive. His findings appear to be totally at odds with the actual investigation. David Parker was in this up to his eyeballs and Dr Prebble's findings represent a fundamental disconnect with the facts."

Mr Brownlee says the full text of the inquiry shows a worrying culture of politicisation in the public service, to the point that few seem to understand how bad it has become.

"David Parker's office referred to Clare Curran as the Minister's 'right hand woman' and it fast-tracked meetings with Hugh Logan. David Parker even rang Ms Curran himself to say he'd put in a good word for her.

"Meanwhile, other senior MfE staff, including an acting manager, referred to Ms Curran as a 'Ministerial appointment' in official documents, and that was never questioned."

The report confirms a culture of politicisation when it says: 'while energetically responding to the programme of the government of the day is indeed important for departments, so is the Public Service's capacity to be seen and trusted by the public to uphold the conventions around political neutrality and merit-based selection'... 'it is not apparent that the Ministry would act differently today if a similar set of circumstances arose'.

Mr Brownlee notes that Madeleine Setchell's supposed conflict was a sackable offence, while Clare Curran's membership of the Labour Party and work for David Parker was not even considered to be an issue.

"And where is the detail about the dirt file prepared on Erin Leigh? The report is completely silent on this important issue despite the Prime Minister promising in Parliament last week that the SSC would canvas the issue in its investigation. Apologies and resignations are no substitute for real answers."

The report also says:

* There appears to be evidence of widespread contract splitting to divide projects into stages worth less than $10,000 and thus place them below the threshold required for a competitive selection process. These practices raise significant value-for-money, legal and probity risks for the Ministry.

* Overall, the process used was not appropriate for a situation where the Minister had initiated consideration of a contractor.

* The Advisor and the Senior Media Advisor understood that Ms Curran was engaged at the request of the Minister.

ENDS

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