This Government gets criticised by the opposition for having so many inquiries, too many inquiries according to National. Why is it spending so much money?
Well given the findings of one of the findings, the investigation into the actions of Security Firm Thompson and Clark (“TCIL”), they should be investigating more. Because the findings are utterly damning. They bring back strong memories of the Dirty Politics era. And all those involved ought to hang their heads in shame.
From the SSC press release:
A State Services Commission investigation into the use of external security consultants by government agencies has uncovered failings across the public service, including breaches of the code of conduct.
State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes said the system was not operating in a way New Zealanders would expect and has introduced new standards that will strengthen transparency and consistency across all government agencies.
However, the inquiry found no evidence of widespread inappropriate surveillance by external security consultants on behalf of government agencies.
An underlying theme of the inquiry was the balance between a citizen’s right to privacy and the public interest.
“Any decision to use surveillance requires careful judgement,” said the Commissioner.
“It must be lawful, it must be proportionate, and it must be ethical.
“It is never acceptable for an agency to undertake targeted surveillance of a person just because they are lawfully exercising their democratic rights – including their right to freedom of expression, association and right to protest. That is an affront to democracy.”
The inquiry, led by Mr Doug Martin and Mr Simon Mount QC, looked at the use of external security consultants, including but not limited to Thompson & Clark Investigations Limited (TCIL). The inquiry covered 131 State sector agencies, including all public service departments. It looked at whether public servants or contractors may have breached the State Services Standards of Integrity and Conduct (code of conduct).
The inquiry focused on the last 10 years but also looked at events going further back.
Some of the specific findings are highlighted in this article by Andrea Vance. From the article:
– that a Thompson & Clark employee recorded several closed meetings of Southern Response insurance claimants in Christchurch between 2014-2016. The contractor was not a licensed private investigator, which is potentially unlawful. The activity is the subject of Hughes’ complaint to police.
– Two Ministry of Primary Industries staff were also working for Thompson & Clark, and accessed New Zealand Transport Agency information on behalf of the security firm. They are now being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office.
– MPI hired the firm to monitor animal rights activists, and spy on them at conferences in 2005 and 2006.
– Crown Law hired investigators from another firm to dig up information to cross examine witnesses in a court case alleging abuse in state care – known as the “White case”. The investigators may have used “low level surveillance”.
– inappropriate email contact between a Security Intelligence Service staff and one of the firm’s directors, which risked harming the reputation of the government spy agency.
– unprofessional interactions between the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Thompson & Clark investigators, working for the oil and gas industry, that “created at least a perception of conflict of interest”.
– Thompson & Clark reported to government agencies on the activities of the Green and Mana parties, Taranaki and Northland iwi groups and Greenpeace, described as “an affront to democracy”.”
The last allegation is particularly concerning. How can any Government Department think that spying on the Green Party can have been justified.
Heads should roll. The first, that of Southern Response chair Ross Butler, has been delivered. But there should be more.
The basic problem is to allow private entities to engage in activities that the State authorities should be engaged in allows them to neatly sidestep oversight and legal restrictions.
And the role of the last Government should be subject to further scrutiny. After all it was under their watch that this has occurred.
Dear Southern Response. Wondering if you are making tweaks to personnel on your website tonight if you might need to make some other changes. Just thinking about how respect and integrity fit with your values right now. pic.twitter.com/6FIpk3CFRH
— Pip Keane (@pipkeane) December 18, 2018