Twyford’s chores include naming a new CAA chair – but the candidates have cause to be chary

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 whom?

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.



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