Last month, John Banks appointed former ACT candidate and party president Catherine Isaac to head the Charter School Working Group. It looked like a crony appointment - Isaac has no relevant expertise - so I submitted the usual OIA request, seeking information on whether the appointment process had followed the SSC guidelines [PDF]. I received the response back today, and its pretty shocking.
Two documents were released. The first of these was an (incomplete) Cabinet Paper [PDF] formally appointing Isaac and other members of the Working Group. As part of this paper, Banks certified to Cabinet (as required by Cabinet guidelines) that
I can confirm that an appropriate process has been followed in considering the proposed nominees in terms of the SSC Appointments Guidelines. Nominated agencies such as Te Puni Kokiri, the Ministry of Women's Affairs, and the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs were invited to submit names of suitable candidates.That may very well have been true of the ordinary group members. It was not true of Ms Isaac. The other document - a report on the establishment of the Working Group [PDF] - paints a blunt picture of the "process":
The decision has already been made to nominate Catherine Isaac as the Chair of the Group.And that's it. No person specification, no call for nominations, no interviews, no assessment. The Minister simply shoulder-tapped someone - who just happened to be a member of his party, a former candidate, and former party president - and that was that. That's not consistent with the SSC guidelines, and claiming that it is is simply a lie. The appointment was cronyism, pure and simple.
Another interesting feature: appointment papers are required to specify how much the appointees will be paid. This one did not, saying only that
The Group is classified as a Group 4 Level 2 Working Group under the Cabinet-approved fees framework. Appropriate fees will be determined with reference to the framework.(Link added)
There's a bit of wiggle room there, so I'll be doing a followup OIA to determine exactly how much Isaac is being paid and whether Banks sought an exemption from the framework for her.
Appointments to government positions are supposed to be on merit. Sometimes, a former MP or party affiliate is the best person for the job - in which case you'd expect that to be apparent from the appointment papers and the process followed. But when such a person is appointed with no competitive process, based on apparently no more than their personal links with the Minister, then it is cronyism. And we should not tolerate it in our public service.