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Media Release from the State Services Commissioner

Media Release from the State Services Commissioner

Wednesday 21 April 2004

Comment on the release of the inquiry report into actions of employees of the Immigration Service and the Parliamentary Service

The State Services Commissioner, Michael Wintringham, today commented on the release of the report on his review of actions of employees of the Immigration Service and the Parliamentary Service regarding a letter annotated with, amongst other things, a drawing of a guinea pig, and its transmission to the Minister of Immigration. The object of the inquiry was to establish:

* The circumstances in which any employee of the Immigration Service or of the Parliamentary Service handled or obtained a copy of the annotated letter;

* Actions taken in respect of the copy of the letter by any such employee;

* The involvement, if any, of any such employee in the passing of the letter to any party, including the Electorate Office for the member of Parliament for Mount Albert, and/or in transmission of the letter to the Minister of Immigration. Christopher Toogood, QC, carried out the investigation on behalf of the Commissioner.

Mr Wintringham said the report provides an extensive and comprehensive analysis of the circumstances surrounding the creation and handling of the annotated letter.

"The inquiry report outlines the likely chain of events that led to the letter's eventual publication. Whilst there are some conflicting recollections regarding certain events, the inquiry revealed no improper behaviour by Immigration Service officials. The report states: "The published copy of the annotated letter was not supplied to the electorate office, or to the Minister, by employees of the Immigration Service."

"In summary, the report finds no wrong doing by any officials but it does note the difficulties faced by Parliamentary Service staff working in electorate offices. Their role is at the interface of the political and the non-political Public Service - as the report states:

"electorate agents are obliged to tread a fine line between representing the interests of constituents who see advantage in making representations through an electorate office to a Minister or Member of Parliament, and protecting Members of Parliament and Ministers from allegations of improper interference in statutory decision-making or statutory processes."

"The report therefore does not criticise the Mt Albert electoral office staff for their actions in passing on the annotated letter to a Minister of Parliament."

"The vast majority of State sector staff uphold the highest standards of ethical behaviours in their work. Allegations of improper behaviour on the part of one individual impact on all State sector staff and should not be made lightly. Any allegation should be investigated thoroughly - as it was in this case," Mr Wintringham said.

The Report for the State Services Commissioner into actions of employees of the Immigration Service and the Parliamentary Service, by Christopher Toogood, QC can be found online at http://www.ssc.govt.nz/inquiry-report-imm-serv-and-parl-serv from 2pm.


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