the neutrality of the public service
In light of Kevin Taylor's partner Medeline Setchell's outing form her job and the involvement of David Benson Popes office, questions are being rasied as to whether the Public Service (and the State Services Commission) is neutral or aligned to the Government of the day. Setchels job as Communications manager for the Environment Ministry would have provided her with Government strategy with regards to Climate Change - a policy aimed to woo the important Green vote.
Now, when I was working for the Ministry of Social Development about two years ago - and guess who the Minister was - public servants were told not to march against the Foreshore and Seabed bill as it was a sensitive bill and against Government policy. This directive came from the State Services Commission and was relayed down to us by my immediate manager. Yet that manager actually took time off work and went on the march, as I understand, on paid leave. Everyone knew.
When Don Brash made his Orewa Speech, I responded to that speech with a carefully worded letter to the Dominion Post. I almost got into trouble for that as well, when Regional Operations Managers were alerted to the letter and I was given a talking to, because Brash's speech was against a sensitive Government issue - despite the fact I did not give my opinion on such sensitivities. I was not reprimanded as I probably would have won a personal grievance case.
It appears the more sensitive the issue, the more likely the Public Service is not neutral. Finally, if the PMs office told Benson Popes office not to get involved in the appointment, questions will be asked why Benson Popes office made that phone call and if Benson Pope is said not to know about that, that leads to two more questions: why didn't he know about it when the PMs office did, and if he did know about it, why did he say that he didn't?.
Helen Clark would be wise to distance herself from David Benson Pope and his office. She should sack him. Not to do at least one of these two things undermines the neutrality of the Public Service.
UPDATE Prime Minister Helen Clark on Morning Report today said that Setchell should never have been hired, presumably because she is a partner of someone linked to another politicl party. That is alarming!
PRESENTER: One sees that there are things that may have gone wrong all along this process, but primarily it seems the mistake that's made is that her application was progressed at all.
CLARK: That's probably right Sean, and in the light of the advice that the State Services Commission later gave Mr Logan.
Helen Clark has just stated that people who have relatives, partners or friends connected to political parties other than Labour need not bother to apply for senior roles in the public service before the election.
National says this is proof that Labour sees the public service as an extension of its political operation.