PM Jacinda Ardern has just announced the demotion of Communications Minister Clare Curran. Curran had, for the second time, failed to be transparent about a meeting that should have been recorded in her diary and run by her staff first. Curran will retain some portfolios, though outside of cabinet.
It appears Curran was sounding out businessman Derek Handley for the role of Chief Technology Officer.
More as it comes …
The PM’s statement:
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has removed Clare Curran from Cabinet and accepted her offer to resign her Government Digital Services portfolio and Open Government responsibilities, following a second failure to properly declare a meeting.
Dr Megan Woods will take over as Minister of Government Digital Services and Ms Curran’s delegated responsibilities in relation to Open Government will revert to Chris Hipkins, as Minister for State Services. Minister Curran will retain her responsibilities as Minister for Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media, and as Associate Minister for ACC, but will now sit outside Cabinet.
In February this year Minister Curran met with Mr Derek Handley at her Beehive office in her capacity as Minister of Government Digital Services to discuss Mr Handley’s interest in the vacant Chief Technology Officer (CTO)role. This meeting took place after the first unsuccessful recruitment round for the CTO. As with approaches from other interested parties, the Minister directed Mr Handley to register his interest with MBIE officials. Applications reopened for the CTO role in May.
The meeting was not recorded in the Minister’s diary and neither the Minister’s staff nor officials were made aware of it.
The meeting was subsequently mistakenly left out of an answer to a recent Parliamentary Question for Written Answer. The meeting should have been included in the answer and the error has been corrected. Ms Curran has advised there have been no other meetings between herself and Mr Handley outside the application process.
“The failure to record the meeting in her diary; inform her staff and officials; and accurately answer Parliamentary questions has left the Minister open to the accusation that she deliberately sought to hide the meeting.” said Jacinda Ardern.
“While this was not the Minister’s intention, this is the second misjudgement and is not in keeping with my expectations, or the Minister’s expectations of herself. As a result I have chosen to remove Minister Curran from Cabinet.
“Transparency is important, even more so for Hon Curran given her Open Government responsibilities.
“I have accepted the Minister’s offer to resign her responsibilities relevant to this issue, which clearly she can no longer continue in. State Services Minister Chris Hipkins will take back the Open Government responsibilities which were delegated to Hon Curran, and Minister Woods will take over the Government Digital Services portfolio, which aligns with her Research, Science and Innovation responsibilities.
“The CTO appointment process is in its final stages. Minister Curran will have no further involvement in it and State Services Minister Hipkins will take over that process and finalise the details of the appointment and the implementation of the CTO role.
“Minister Hipkins has asked the State Services Commission to take a look at the CTO appointment process to ensure it has been robust, and that the meeting between Ms Curran and Mr Handley had no bearing on the process or outcome. The SSC will report back next week before the appointment process is concluded.
“I want to express my sincere apologies to Mr Handley who has been brought into this issue through no fault of his own. He is a qualified and capable candidate who has made it through to the final stages of the appointment process based on his talent, experience. The issue is entirely about the Minister’s conduct, not Mr Handley’s.”