Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Shoulder-tapping a crony

Last month, the government appointed former Labour MP and cabinet minister Pete Hodgson as chair of Callaghan Innovation. As current chair of Otago Innovation Limited and with qualifications in veterinary science and public policy, on the face of it Hodgson is reasonably qualified for the job. But did he get it because of his qualifications, or because of his connection with the Labour Party? Sadly, it appears to be the latter. I sent in my usual OIA request about the appointment, seeking information about the process and how Hodgson had entered it. The appointment documents (such as they are) are here, but the real smoking gun is in the cover letter. The Minister. Megan Woods, is deliberately vague about how Hodgson's name entered the process:

The targeted search for potential candidates led by MBIE and with input from myself, resulted in a list of nine candidates. The list, which contains brief details on a range of experienced people alongside Mr Hodgson, was discussed With officials at a meeting of 20 November 2017.

A subsequent email got this admission from the Minister's staff:
The Minister initially raised Peter Hodgson’s name, along with a number of others, during a discussion with officials.

Note that Hodgson hadn't even been approached at this point. So basicly, the Minister shoulder-tapped him, then had him appointed without even the formality of an interview. There was no competitive process, and so no chance for the candidates to be assessed on merit.

If Hodgson had entered the process by e.g. applying in an open, transparent and competitive process, then it might be possible to believe he was appointed on merit. But with this process, its pretty clear that it was simply a crony appointment, Labour paying off a past MP and stacking the boards with people it trusts. And that is not how our public service is supposed to operate.