The strong whiff of meritocracy being further undermined in this country has reached Point of Order in the form of a press statement from Ethnic Communities Minister Jenny Salesa.
She says the Cabinet has agreed to collect ethnicity data for candidates appointed to State sector boards and committees.
These data will be used
” … to identify opportunities and challenges in delivering our goal of ensuring Government bodies have a balanced membership reflective of wider New Zealand society.”
In other words, ethnic identity will be a factor in appointing people to State-sector boards and committees and “balanced membership” will be more important than the abilities of appointees.
It’s the same doctrine which Women’s Affairs Minister Julie Anne Genter preaches when she rails against the numbers of “old” white men on company boards.
It must be acknowledged, of course, that governments notoriously show their contempt for meritocracy when they give jobs to cronies and party hacks.
As No Right Turn reported recently:
The previous government was notorious for cronyism, running fake appointment processes for form’s sake before shoehorning their preferred cronies in at the last minute. That was pretty blatantly corrupt, but in less than a year the new government has managed to surpass them, with the appointment of former Labour MP Steve Maharey as chair of Pharmac.
It so happens the Maharey appointment was approved – on grounds of his abilities – at Point of Order.
But No Right Turn raised matters to which we were oblivious after Malcolm Harbrow received replies to an Official Information Act request.
“The released documents show cronyism so naked that I have not seen it before in New Zealand.”
For starters, Health Minister David Clark received advice to reappoint the existing board chair Stuart McLauchlan to manage Pharmac through upcoming changes, or at least temporarily reappoint him so a proper process to find a replacement could be run.
“This advice was ignored. Which would be fine if Clark had then run a proper appointment process to appoint someone on merit. Instead, he simply shoulder-tapped Maharey, on the basis of ‘skills and experience which are well known to the Minister of Health’.”
The job of Pharmac chair was not publicly advertised; there was no position description, no application, no interviews …
No Right Turn goes on:
“The SSC Board Appointment and Induction Guidelines require that a position description is completed and strongly suggest that a wide pool of candidates be sought by a variety of methods (including advertisement, nominations from state-sector agencies etc) in order to get the broadest possible pool of high-talent candidates. They also assume that candidates will be short-listed, interviewed, and generally assessed on merit.”
“The way to get a job under Labour is not to be good at it, but to be buddies with the Minister. This is not how our government is meant to work.
“But it also diminishes Maharey, in that he’s not obviously unsuitable for the role, and if he’d been appointed by the previous government or by an independent, transparent and merit-based process, no questions would have been asked. Instead, the method of his appointment taints him, and he’ll forever show up on Google as a crony. Those seeking government appointments might want to think about that.
To eliminate cronyism, Harbrow argues,
” … we must remove the power of Ministers to dispense patronage in this manner.
“We already do that for state sector chief executive positions by using an independent panel and we should do it for boards as well. As with CEOs, if Ministers want to override the recommendation they have received, then they should be required to publicly notify that fact – a mechanism which ensures that it hardly ever happens.
“If we do this, our public sector would be better for it, and appointments would be free of the taint of cronyism or the suspicion they had been purchased through donations.”
At Kiwiblog, David Farrar says he is not against former Ministers getting board appointments.
But I’ve never before seen one appointed with no process at all – just on the whim of the Minister. No advertising, no consideration of other people.”
Harbrow has also recorded Labour’s appointment of an MP’s partners to a charity trust and former Labour MP Margaret Wilson’s appointment as deputy chair of the Waikato DHB.
This time he commented:
“As with many crony appointments, it’s not so much an issue of qualification as of preference. If Wilson had applied like a normal person and been appointed by the previous government, her appointment would have been unobjectionable.
“But the fact that it’s a Labour government appointing one of their own immediately calls both the process and the outcome into doubt. If the government wants people to have confidence in its appointments, it needs a better process which is transparent, merit-based, and does not allow Ministers or MPs to shuffle their friends in and bypass the usual process.”
Now we must brace for the government bringing ethnicity into the mix when it makes appointments each year to 429 State sector boards and committees (at last count).
Salesa says the Office of Ethnic Communities (OEC) will conduct a voluntary survey of ethnic representation on State sector boards and committees from October 3 – 31.
This will enable the OEC to collect baseline data to help strengthen future monitoring and reporting of ethnic diversity across State sector boards and committees. The OEC will report back on progress in early 2019.
“This is part of our ongoing work to support people from ethnic communities in contributing to state sector boards and committees,” says Jenny Salesa.
We may suppose it is also part of the government’s grand plan to balance cronyism with gender and colour.