28 May 2012

The importance of trustworthy State servants is stressed in the Statements of Intent of both the State Services Commissioner and the Auditor General released following the Budget last week. The Commissioner allocated two pages (21-22) of his 28 page SOI. The Auditor General allocated 5 pages (17-21) of her 75 page document.

The content is largely complementary. Both include international surveys to validate their focus on strengthening public trust and confidence in government. The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index has become an entrenched measure for both agencies. OAG is also using the Worldwide Governance Indicators as a measure.  Although the indicators were not collated in 2011, the release of a new set indices is anticipated in early June. Interestingly, New Zealand’s score for political stability is lower than for the other five indicators.

While both SOIs refer to State Services integrity surveys (2007, 2010) as performance measures, the absence of any mention to a further survey suggest that none will be conducted in either 2012 or 2013.

Integrity standards are flagged as “the critical underpinning” of the Commission’s role in identifying emergent risks to the trust and integrity of the system, including trust and integrity frameworks and setting required levels of transparency. The Commissioner indicates that he will investigate issues regarding the integrity and conduct of State servants.

With the importance of public trust and confidence confirmed, how will both agencies react to evidence in the Yan/Liu trial in the High Court?  The Herald reported the evidence of a Citizenship Officer wanting to make inquiries with Australian immigration authorities: –

…. “I had a phone call that I was told not to ask any more questions because there was a lot of political pressure to send the file to Wellington.

“I was told to just process the file, send it to Wellington, don’t worry about asking any more questions.

“I have been working there for seven years and that was the first time I have had my boss phone me about an application.”

Asked who called him, Mr Gambo named the general manager of citizenship, Geoff May.

Mr Gambo said he told Mr Yan at a meeting in May 2008 that it was unlikely he would get citizenship because there were so many unresolved issues.

“He said to me, ‘I’m confident it will be okay. I’ve got a lot of support from the MPs’.”

In cross-examination, defence lawyer David Jones, QC, suggested to Mr Gambo that he was lying and said there was no documentation of his conversation with Mr Yan.

Mr Gambo denied he was lying and another Internal Affairs citizenship officer, Judith Broad, was later called to give evidence.

She recalled Mr Gambo telling her and other staff members that Mr Yan was confident of getting citizenship despite the questions over his application.

“He came back into the back office and said, ‘Mr Liu is very confident he is going to get citizenship because he has got lots of backing and support from MPs’,” said Ms Broad.

She described this as “shocking…”

How does this stack up with the obligation to be “professional and responsive”, to treat everyone “fairly and with respect” and to “act lawfully and objectively”? Or is it explained by “respecting the authority of the government”.

According to the Herald, the Serious Fraud Office director has approached the Auditor-General to signal interest in the case.