How the Govt’s IT girl and her email secrets left Chris Hipkins floundering

The  government  is  sinking deeper  into the hole  left behind by Clare Curran   over the  appointment of a  Chief Technology  Officer.

Questioned  in Parliament,   State Services  Minister  Chris Hipkins sounded far from confident  when he  stuttered  about issues of  “natural  justice”.

He  was  floundering  not   just because of the  secret  emails  Curran  had  sent  Derek Handley,  whom she  favoured  – it seems – as  the CTO,  but because it turns  out  Handley  is a friend of   PM  Jacinda  Ardern.

Not  surprisingly,  National  thinks  the whole  process   has been  “tainted”.

National’s Nick Smith has called  on the  government to restart the appointment process for a third time after the “debacle” of secret emails and meetings involving candidate Derek Handley.

“The process of appointing the CTO is so tainted that the Government needs to start again.

“You cannot have one candidate having secret meetings and emails with the Minister without creating inherent unfairness in the process.  Confirmation the Prime Minister also had private communications and meetings with Handley further adds to the suspicions of a politically biased appointment process.”

 Smith   says Hipkins’ refusal to answer questions in Parliament about the secret emails from Clare Curran and on whether  Handley was offered the job spectacularly contradicts the Coalition Government’s commitment to be the most open and transparent government ever.

He believes it is concerning  the key industry bodies of both IT Professionals NZ and NZTech have lost confidence in the process. They have described any appointment now from this shoddy process as a “dead duck”, reinforcing the need for it to be redone.

The CTO is the flagship of the Government’s IT policy and is budgeted to cost the taxpayer over $500,000 a year.

“It is a sign of the shambles of this Government that a third try at the appointment process is required to deliver this simple policy.”

The government  should also be heeding  criticism  coming from   another  direction including experts in the  IT field,  headlined  in  the  New Zealand Herald over a piece by Julia Juha Saarinen : “Get a techie with know-how for top job”.

Saarinen  writes   NZ  techies  are having a meltdown that people  who don’t do technology — that is,  know  how to code, set up and operate  computer systems and networks — are being considered  for the CTO  role.  (Does  he mean Derek Handley?)

He makes the  point   the government needs  someone   who  can engage with the free and open  source software community,  and explain to the government why breaking  encryption for surveillance is  very dangerous at a  technical level.

Saarinen points  to a 2014  quote  by Xero  founder Rod Drury:

“How does the government, without  deep  technology  expertise, engage in  sorting out  the vested  interests, and  overwhelming  information flow, in order to come up with a step-change plan to  transform  our place in the world?”

Maybe an Opposition MP could put the question to Hipkins – but they shouldn’t put much money on getting an answer.


3 thoughts on “How the Govt’s IT girl and her email secrets left Chris Hipkins floundering

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