In This Edition: The Case Against Mr Peter Davies
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Sludge Report #111
The Case Against Mr Peter Davies
C.D. Sludge has often marvelled at the ability of economists to juggle facts and figures to present any manner of results to a stupified public. Last week, we all witnessed an extraordinary set of exchanges, led by the country's most powerful public servant and one of New Zealand's top economists, Dr Allan Bollard.
Dr Bollard, stepped beyond the grey public servant role that seems to be so much demanded of by modern-day politicians and appealed directly to the public. He stated that he had compelling proof that the culprit behind the leaked people's bank papers on the ACT website was Mr Peter Davies, a contractor to the Crown Company Monitoring Advisory Unit (CCMAU). To support his claim, Dr Bollard released the full report prepared for him by David Oughton (ex-Secretary of Justice) on this matter.
Now C.D. Sludge is slow to subscribe to conspiracy theories but having said that, I couldn't help feeling that the result was very convenient for the Government. After all Jim Anderton was very quick (some might just say "a tad too quick") to condemn CCMAU when the leaks occurred. With the release of the Oughton report, he was equally quick to praise the hard working public servants at Treasury and CCMAU and stated that he now had full confidence - what a remarkable turnaround. Jim must have been doubly pleased that the report had concluded that it wasn’t a public servant but one of those contractors he so vilified while he was in opposition.
C.D. Sludge sat down to leaf through the material that had been presented to support Dr Bollard's claim of compelling proof. After reading the report, C.D. Sludge is inclined to state that if this report is the sum total of the Crown's case against Mr Davies, then a grave miscarriage of natural justice may have been perpetrated by naming him in this manner.
Contrary to Dr Bollard's claim, the report does not detail a compelling case. It details a number of disparate issues which may or may not be inter-connected. In a number of instances, the issues appear totally irrelevant. C.D. Sludge was left wondering whether this is a clear case of two plus two being made to equal five because it gets a desired set of outcomes.
In this context C.D. Sludge contests the relevancy of the reference to Hotmail and Yahoo accounts in the report (the log shows that these accounts were primarily accessed before the documents were supposedly copied - so what is the relevance), as well as the relevancy of the reference to accessing the ACT website. C.D. Sludge would wager that on any given day the ACT website is visited by a wide range of people, including (probably) public servants.
The sequential or serial set of logins that supposedly occurred on 27th June 2001 was so compelling to Dr Bollard that he used this as an example on Morning Report on28th September 2001. Yet, according to the computer log presented as Appendix "C", this sequential set of logins is ambiguous (if Mr Davies was not logged in at 9:43 am on 27th June as stated in the log, how then could he access his Yahoo account at that time). It is not compelling to supporting claims that documents were moved at this time as the so-called sequential login would have been for 10 minutes in total (not a lot of time to do all that much) and according to the log did not include using the C.D.-writer or scanner.
Perhaps most importantly and contrary to what the report claims, the report cannot discount that any number of people could have logged onto the PC scanner using Mr Davies' password, if indeed this was the method by which the material was leaked. The report doesn’t even establish that with any degree of certainty as it does not cover a range of options including agencies other than CCMAU. Mr Davies doesn’t have to prove this, nor should he be considered guilty if he doesn’t respond on any of these issues. The onus of proof rests with Dr Bollard and the Crown in this instance.
C.D. Sludge concludes that it appears that Dr Bollard has already made up his mind and the statements made against Mr Davies appear to be an attempt to flush him out by placing him in a "guilty until he proves his innocence" situation in the public eye. C.D. Sludge wonders just how fair and equitable is that and whether any one of us would accept this if we were put in Mr Davies's position. Dr Bollard seems content to make this claim knowing that Mr Davies' only recourse of action would be to incur a very expensive and public process to clear his name. Of course, having the deep pockets of the Crown bank account in support must be a comforting thought for Dr Bollard. As for Mr Davies, he does not have that luxury.
C.D. Sludge invites Dr Bollard to re-read the report and think through the logic contained therein as it just does not stack up as it is written. Alternatively, C.D. Sludge invites Dr Bollard to present any additional evidence in support of his claims or perhaps he may just want to apologise to Mr Davies.