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Canterbury Emergency Response Unit Report Released


Release of the Inquiry Report into the Department of Correction's handling of the Canterbury Emergency Response Unit

The State Services Commissioner, Mark Prebble, today released the report of Ailsa Duffy QC's Inquiry into the Department of Corrections' handling of the Canterbury Emergency Response Unit (CERU).

Mark Prebble says the Inquiry investigates the Department of Corrections' response to allegations of inappropriate behaviour in the CERU and the actions it has taken since.

"Ms Duffy, in undertaking the Inquiry, interviewed more than 70 people. The resulting report is an extensive investigation into events that are now four to five years old," he said.

As taken from the report's summary, the main findings are:

* "There was little wrong with the management systems, policies and procedures during the CERU's life. The problem was that for most of its life, to some considerable extent, the CERU was able to operate outside those systems, policies and procedures." * "The absence of clear line management meant there was no clear line of accountability; in these circumstances the unit was able to develop an inappropriate militaristic culture" * "Every investigation the Department established to look into allegations of inappropriate behaviour in the CERU was poorly conceived, narrowly constrained and without the capacity to examine the full picture. In this way, the Department lost opportunities to learn from the CERU incidents"

"This matter has led to unhappy relationships between staff in the Canterbury region that have not been resolved despite two internal Corrections investigations and an investigation by the Prison Inspectorate.

"This State Service Commissioner's Inquiry has created additional work for the Department of Corrections, in terms of time and resources from staff and management, as well as the costs of the inquiry process.

"However, it was necessary in order to address the long standing and corrosive effect of the ongoing allegations on Canterbury region staff.

"The findings remind us that people do make mistakes. But it is management's job to identify these errors, investigate the circumstances and take prompt action, if required.

"Running a prison is a hard job. It is clear that this was a complex set of events that occurred in the middle of a large and complex organisation. However, if the department's own internal procedures had been followed during the first investigation in 2000 then this matter could have been resolved much earlier, thus avoiding the need for a State Service Commissioner's Inquiry.

"For New Zealanders to have trust in government, government employees and agencies must model the highest standards of behaviour. This Inquiry reinforces the importance of adhering to management systems at all times in order to maintain that trust," Mark Prebble said.

For further information: Karen Jones, State Services Commission, 04 495 6657 or 021 391 414

The full report (250 pages) is online at http://www.ssc.govt.nz. Limited copies of the report are also available from level 5, SSC, 100 Molesworth Street, Wellington.

Background Questions and Answers

How was the Inquiry conducted? Interviews were held in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch with interested parties. Hearings were not held in public, due to the requests for privacy from a number of persons who registered their interest in participating.

When was CERU set up? The Canterbury Emergency Response Unit (CERU) was established in July 1999. It was dis-established when the national framework for prison staffing was implemented (1 July 2000). Where did the Inquiry originate? The Minister of Corrections requested that an investigation be undertaken by the State Services Commissioner because of alleged mishandling of the department's inquiry into the CERU incident. The State Services Commissioner agreed to investigate under section 8 of the State Sector Act and appointed Ailsa Duffy QC under section 25 of that Act to conduct it.

What powers did the Inquiry have? Inquiries under the State Sector Act have the powers of a Commission of Inquiry.

Where are the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry? They can be found at http://www.ssc.govt.nz

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