Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Point of Order: Public service review finds procurement and conflict management practices at four agencies fell below standard

The statement we were looking for was not to be found on the Beehive website, when we checked early this afternoon. But the issue we hoped would be addressed in a statement from the Beehive was publicised on the Public Service Commission website.

Public Service Commissioner Peter Hughes released the findings of a review into how public service agencies managed conflicts of interest while procuring the services of Ka Awatea Services Ltd (KAS) and Kawai Catalyst Ltd (KC).

Hughes’ statement, curiously, made no mention of the names of Nanaia Mahuta or her husband, Gannin Ormsby.

The report on the review, on the other hand, makes several references to Mahuta and Gannin Ormsby, her husband, as well as to other members of the Ormsby family.

The Nats found enough in the report to justify issuing a statement headed

The Public Service Commission’s report into contracts linked to Cabinet Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s family has exposed serious flaws in how the public service deals with conflicts of interest, National’s Public Service spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

Brown mentioned both Mahuta and Gannin Ormsby in his statement, which noted that the report

“… suggests the public service has developed a culture of carelessness in how it procures contracts and manages perceived conflicts of interest, undermining public confidence.

“The findings of the report show the Ministry for the Environment had several opportunities to address issues with their procurement processes into awarding a contract to Ms Mahuta’s husband Gannin Ormsby. Instead of being driven by effective and robust procurement processes, the ministry was driven by its own deadlines.

“Even more concerning, Kāinga Ora did not even ask about any conflicts of interest during its procurement process with Mr Ormsby’s company, a basic requirement for government agencies.”

Brown said Public Service Minister Chris Hipkins needs to step up and explain why agencies are failing to practice effective and robust procurement processes and how agencies deal with conflicts of interest.

But at time of writing, Hipkins had yet to step up and say something about the report.

In a nutshell, the review aimed to determine whether public service agencies had appropriately identified and managed any conflicts of interest in their contractual relationships with KAS and KC.

It found:
  • Te Puni Kōkiri and the Ministry for the Environment failed to properly identify and manage perceived conflicts because they didn’t follow what were otherwise sound agency policies and processes.
  • a minor perceived conflict with Kāinga Ora was not identified because the agency failed to ask about conflicts of interest during the contracting process.
  • there were no conflicts of interest in relation to Department of Conservation contracts, but its contract management was poor.
Overall, the review found agency procurement and conflict management practices at the four agencies fell short of the standards expected of public service agencies. It also found tighter processes for assessing perceived conflicts of interest are needed in the agencies, including where conflicts involve Ministers, and that procurement practices need to improve, in particular the way those agencies manage contracts under $100,000.

The review found no evidence of favouritism, bias, or undue influence over agency decisions in relation to KAS or KC due to any connection with a Minister. The actions of Ministers, the directors of KAS and KC, and members of the public, were outside the scope of this review. However, the review did not identify any matter that would require referral to another oversight body.

While Chris Hipkins (we would like to think) is having his media team work on an appropriate statement, his Cabinet colleagues have been –

The two remaining open areas in the Coromandel scallop fishery will close, after new information showed scallops are in decline.

A phased roll-out of faster claim payments for survivors of abuse in State care has begun, with the first claimants now receiving offers, Public Service Minister Chris Hipkins and Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni say.

Rapid payments by the Ministry of Social Development are being prioritised for survivors who are seriously ill or unwell, aged over 70, or have waited the longest to get their claims considered.

The first set of rapid payments are being made by MSD, which has about 3000 historic claims – more than 90% of all the current historical claims being processed by four government agencies.

Sepuloni explains that this is an important step which enables survivors to choose whether to go through a rapid payment process, and ensuring survivors can determine the path the works best for them.

Minister of Defence Peeni Henare today marked the arrival of the first of Aotearoa New Zealand’s P-8A Poseidon aircraft at the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s Base at Ohakea.

This is the first of four new P-8A Poseidon aircraft bought by the Government “through its historic investment to modernise New Zealand’s defence force”, Henare said.

The Government invested a record $2.53 billion to upgrade our Defence capability in Budget 2018, he recalled, and this included $2.3 billion purchase to replace the aging P-3K2 Orion which had been in service with the RNZAF since the 1960s.

Who was Minister of Defence in 2018? Oh, yes. New Zealand First’s Ron Mark.

Six of the Government’s 64 MPs will retire at the 2023 election, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.

Three ministers – Poto Williams, Aupito William Sio and David Clark – are to retire, along with MPs Jamie Strange, Marja Lubeck and Paul Eagle. All will stay in parliament until the election.

This is another statement where some members of the Point of Order team hoped to find the name of Nanaia Mahuta. Alas, no.

The PM did say:

“These retirements will have no immediate impact on Cabinet with a reshuffle not scheduled until early next year.”

We can wait patiently until early next year.

New sanctions imposed as part of New Zealand’s ongoing response to the war in Ukraine are targeting individuals and networks behind disinformation campaigns that support the Putin war effort.

Oh, look – the name of Nanaia Mahuta has come into one of the latest bunch of Beehive statements.

As Foreign Affairs she announced a further round of sanctions on 23 individuals who are supporting the illegal Russian invasion.

Those sanctioned this time include the Minister of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media, the CEO of Channel-1 Russia, and key personnel from Russian media outlets including InfoRos, SouthFront, and the Strategic Culture Foundation.

Since the passing of the Russia Sanctions Act in March, New Zealand has imposed sanctions on more than 1,200 individuals and entities, and has imposed unprecedented trade measures which has seen two-way trade with Russia fall drastically.

More information about sanctions, travel bans, and export controls against Russia and Belarus; as well as diplomatic, military and economic support to Ukraine can be found on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website here.

Immigration Minister Michael Wood today announced a suite of measures to further support New Zealand businesses through the global labour shortage and attract more high skilled workers long term.

The government has approved over 94,000 job positions for international recruitment, granted over 40,000 working holiday visas, reopened the Pacific Access Category and Samoa Quota, delivered the largest increase in a decade to the RSE scheme, and resumed the Skilled Migrant Category and Parent Category to strengthen our international offering.

And – at long last – registered nurses and midwives will have an immediate pathway to residence, including those already in New Zealand.

“Since the pandemic 3,474 nurses have arrived in country, but it’s clear we need to do more to encourage nurses to choose New Zealand. Adding these roles will further build on the attractiveness of New Zealand to those looking to set themselves and their families up long term.

A new cohort of Pacific young people have been recognised at Parliament for their excellence across various sectors of New Zealand society at the 2022 Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards (PMPYA).

Conservation Minister Poto Williams will lead Aotearoa New Zealand’s delegation to COP15, the Fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal this week.

A key negotiation at COP15 will be the long-standing proposal to protect 30% of land and sea areas by 2030.

New targets on combatting invasive species, reducing harm from pesticides, and eliminating plastic pollution will also be important.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton

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