Keys dodgy appointment | The Jackal

9 Apr 2013

Keys dodgy appointment

There's been a number of arguments put forward by right wing propagandists that the appointment of Ian Fletcher to head the GCSB was undertaken properly... But it's only by looking through boring old legislation to see whether their beloved Key is vindicated or not.

If you've been following this story, you'll be aware that it's a legal requirement under the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 (PDF) for the Governor-General to appoint the director of the GCSB, and like all high level state sector positions, the Ian Fletcher appointment was meant to adhere to a proper process, namely the SSC's Board Appointment and Induction Guidelines (PDF). One of the fundamental requirements in that process is:

Candidates assessed against competencies/skills required and for conflicts etc. Process documented & a shortlist agreed with selection panel.

If the SSC had followed the proper procedure, the candidates on the shortlist that was later dismissed by Iain Rennie and/or John Key had already met the requirements and were therefore appropriate for the position... That's why they were on the shortlist, which makes claims that they weren't appropriate appear to be untrue. It also makes dismissing them in favour of just one hand picked candidate highly questionable.

So why were the other candidates on the shortlist dismissed in favour of just one candidate? Well the obvious answer to that pressing question is that Key and Fletcher are friends, which creates a conflict of interest. It appears that bias was shown throughout the improper process undertaken to appoint the new director of the GCSB.

According to the SSC's guidelines, an interest arises where a person has a financial, familial or other personal interest in a matter that could give rise to bias or the appearance of bias in the work of an agency. That's why Key was at pains to avoid mentioning the depth of his relationship with Fletcher when questioned in parliament.

According to the rules, candidates must also declare any financial, personal or professional interest that might create a conflict... It appears Fletcher didn't properly divulge the extent of his relationship with Key either, because if he had, it would have been mentioned in the appointment papers.

Despite that requirement, the only official documentation of any previous acknowledgement of Key and Fletcher knowing each other was when Iain Rennie reported last Thursday:

The panel was aware that the Prime Minister and Mr Fletcher knew each other and had spoken on the telephone. This would not and did not influence the panel's decision or my recommendation to the Prime Minister.

This is despite Stuff reporting on the same day:

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie today admitted he was surprised Key contacted Fletcher - but has insisted the prime minister acted appropriately.

It appears that Iain Rennie is again being untruthful, because he actually chaired the selection panel that interviewed Fletcher. If he was previously informed about the phone call, why was he later surprised? He was surprised because he wasn't previously informed, and is simply trying to protect Key to ensure he's reappointed as State Services Commissioner.

Friendship - Members may have an interest in matters affecting the interests of close friends. Close and reasonably long-standing relationships with demonstrable intimacy are likely to create strong perceptions of interest.

The demonstrable intimacy is shown when John Key phoned his family friend Ian Fletcher about the job, and also with the three meetings that we know about.

The guidelines are very specific with much of the public now believing there's a conflict of interest... It's the appearance of bias as much as the fact of the matter that counts, and that bias has in my opinion been despicably displayed in the Kim Dotcom fiasco.

Clearly the conflict of interest between Key and Fletcher hasn't been properly managed and in my opinion that mismanagement has brought the government into disrepute... Fletcher should therefore resign.