Phil Twyford is one of the more controversial ministers within Jacinda Ardern’s coalition government. His performance with Labour’s flagship policy KiwiBuild was so undistinguished he was removed from the Housing portfolio, but not before the first CEO of KiwiBuild, Stephen Barclay, stepped away from the job.
Now Helen O’Sullivan, who was selected during Twyford’s term as minister to succeed Barclay, has also resigned.
Then there’s the curious case of Nigel Gould, who has been chairman of the Civil Aviation Administration.
Gould is a prominent Wellington accountant who had served as chairman of Centreport and Chancellor of Massey University (services recognised with the award of the ONZM) before taking on the role at the CAA in 2011. Now we learn he has resigned “at the request” of Twyford.
Yet Gould, whose term was due to end in June, had been asked to stay on for 12 months back in May.
By none other than Twyford.
Point of Order thinks it will be interesting to see who is willing to step into Gould’s shoes as chairman of the CAA, given the high expectations which will be placed on him or her.
The CAA is a department in NZ’s public service not often in the news, although there are critics who say its record in its duties within aviation safety has not been without fault in recent years.
Of course it is entirely reasonable for ministers to demand the highest standards within the public service, and one doesn’t have to look too deeply to find recent incidents raising question marks about individual performance.
Government Statistician Liz McPherson resigned following a critical review of the way the last Census was conducted. The former Secretary to the Treasury, Gabriel Mahklouf, left with the shadow of the so-called “hack” of the 2019 Budget hanging over him.
Then there have been issues in the not too distant past within the NZ Transport Authority and the Ministry of Transport.
No less an authority than Kerry McDonald, onetime chairman of the State Sector Standards Board, says that within his judgement,
“ … the continuing incompetence of the State Services Commission is underlined by the chief statistician’s case and commissioner Peter Hughes’ comments. This incompetence is the root cause of the often weak leadership and poor performance of the public service.
“The commissioner ‘appoints and employs’ chief executives and ‘reviews their performance’. So, as the chief statistician’s employer/performance reviewer, how often did they meet for reviews (monthly would be good) and what guidance/assistance was she given?
“This process is fundamental in any competent organisation. Or did ‘own it, fix it and be accountable’ mean there were no meaningful/constructive reviews and she was left simply to sink?
“Either way the commissioner is fully accountable for the chief executive’s performance and an effective minister would insist on a full review of his performance as there are critical national interest lessons to be learned.”
It’s a worry when someone with McDonald’s background voices such a strong opinion.