Labour defends Wally Haumaha report as National pokes holes

Author
Derek Cheng, NZ Herald,
Section
Politics,
Publish Date
Monday, 12 November 2018, 3:30p.m.

The report into the appointment of Wally Haumaha does nothing to discredit the view that Haumaha should not be the Deputy Police Commissioner, the National Party says.

But State Services Commissioner Chris Hipkins says the report, which cleared the decision to appoint to him to the top police role, was right to focus on issues of due diligence - and not "rumour and innuendo".

The inquiry, led by Mary Scholtens QC, was released today and found that the process in appointing Haumaha to Deputy Commissioner was sound.

It found that the allegations of workplace bullying against Haumaha and the concerns raised by Louise Nicholas - the "unknown unknowns" - were not relevant to the appointment process.

It makes a number of recommendations, including that the State Services Commission seek anonymous, confidential views during the appointment process where appropriate.

The report revealed that Police Commissioner Mike Bush knew Louise Nicholas had raised concerns about Wally Haumaha in the past - but did not raise the issue during the appointment process for the deputy commissioner role as he thought it had been resolved.

It also revealed that Police Minister Stuart Nash was told of Haumaha's connections with NZ First, but did not take the matter further despite saying that the Deputy Commissioner of Police should be political independent.

State Services Minister Chris Hipkins told reporters this afternoon that the Government had full confidence in the process of Haumaha's appointment.

Referring to the allegations of workplace bullying, he said that the appointment process could not consider complaints if none had been made.

But he said there were "natural justice issues" around whether the complaints were properly looked at, "something I know that those departments will be looking into".

Police Minister Stuart Nash would not express confidence in Haumaha because he did not want to "prejudice" the outcome of the Independent Police Conduct Authority review, which is looking into the bullying allegations.

But he said the process had been appropriate.

Any question of confidence in Bush's executive leadership team was for Bush, Nash said.

National: Haumaha inquiry too narrow

National Party police spokesman Chris Bishop said the inquiry was too narrow and only ever about the process, not Haumaha's suitability.

"The real question is about the appropriateness of Mr Haumaha for the role," Bishop said.

"Is the Prime Minister comfortable having Deputy Commissioner Haumaha, who has allegedly said a number of [questionable] things around Operation Austin, is also under investigation by the IPCA for bullying allegations, and has political ties to NZ First?"

The National Party wants Haumaha to be stood down from the role.

Bishop also said that Bush should have raised Nicholas' concerns about Haumaha with the appointment panel.

"Given the importance that police themselves have placed on the Commission of Inquiry [into police culture following rape allegations], I do find it surprising. Commissioner Bush should have disclosed that to the panel, and it would be for the panel to make its mind up about that."

Nash should also have raised the Haumaha's connection with NZ First, Bishop said.

"Stuart Nash was advised of the connection on May 24 and chose not to advise Cabinet. When you're looking at the second top police job in the country, it would have been a prudent thing to do to disclose that connection."

Nash said that the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner should be political independent, but would not say whether he had raised the NZ First link with Cabinet colleagues.

He would only say that the Scholtens report showed that all the relevant information was considered.

The Scholtens report found that there was "no available and relevant information omitted from the process".

"Unsubstantiated concerns and innuendo should not impede an appointment."

It makes a number of recommendations, including that the State Services Commission seek anonymous, confidential views during the appointment process where appropriate.

It said that Bush knew of Nicholas' concerns but also that she knew she did not have a role in senior police appointments.

"Had the Commissioner thought the concerns about DC Haumaha were still an issues for Ms Nicholas, he said he would have raised them with her," the report said.

"But he would not necessarily have raised them with the appointment panel. They were not matters he considered to be relevant to the merits of the appointment."

On this point, the State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes and his deputy Debbie Power - who were on the appointment panel with the Police Commissioner - disagreed with Bush.

"Both Mr Hughes and Ms Power thought it would have been prudent for the Commissioner to have advised the appointment panel, even if he understood Ms Nicholas' concerns had been resolved," wrote Scholtens.

"That is not to say it would derail an appointment - they would work through it properly."

Similarly, concerns raised by three women who left a joint Justice project because of alleged bullying by Haumaha were not relevant to the appointment, said Scholtens.

There was no formal complaint to police, and even if there had been, Scholtens said they may not have formed part of Bush's assessment of Haumaha's leadership style.

The allegations are now the subject of an IPCA investigation.

On the day of Haumaha's appointment to Deputy Commissioner, he met with Nicholas and Bush and she raised her concerns, but said she was not trying to stop the appointment.

"Nicholas has told me that she was not satisfied with his answers, but she did say to him that she was willing to work with him," the Scholtens report said.

She noted that "unknown unknowns" of the concerns by Nicholas and the allegations of bullying in 2016 if, made public, could have undermined the appointment.

"I do not know how the process could be improved to ensure such facts are known ... In my view they were not relevant to the merits of the candidate but, because of the risk of undermining the process, it was in the public interest that the risks be identified if possible."

The report said it was difficult to answer what information should be made available for such appointments, and made a number of recommendations including:

  • That State Services Commission seeks information widely from candidates and referees, including matters that might be seen as irrelevant but that not gain traction.
  • That SSC ensure that references are sought from a significant number and diverse mix of referees, appropriate to the role.
  • That SSC use the ability to approach people other than nominated referees, where appropriate, to seek anonymous, confidential views from employees and other persons whose perspectives may not otherwise be reached.
  • That the Commissioner's review of international best practice should include managing risks around unexpected publicity.

Hipkins said the SSC would consider the recommendations.

The report also noted that the SSC did an internet search during the appointment process and found out about Haumaha standing as a candidate for the New Zealand First.

"SSC considered these matters were not relevant to the role's criteria and did not ask DC Haumaha for comment or take it to the appointment panel. However, the information was passed to the Office of the Minister of Police by telephone for his information and consideration.

"If the minister had concerns, it could be raised and be dealt with by some process that would include talking to Haumaha about it."

The inquiry was announced after the Herald revealed in June controversial commentsmade by Haumaha during the Operation Austin investigation in 2004 into rape allegations by Nicholas.

The Austin investigation spoke to an officer who said that Haumaha had described Nicholas' allegations as "a nonsense" and that "nothing really happened and we have to stick together".

Haumaha told Scholtens that he does not recall the conversation, and doubted he would have said such things.

The inquiry was dogged by questions over Haumaha's links to the New Zealand First party and the resignation of the first head of the inquiry, Pauline Kingi.

The inquiry was extended from six to 11 weeks when Scholtens asked for more time to consider allegations of bullying against Haumaha by three women who walked out of Police National Headquarters in June 2016 and refused to return.

The IPCA is now looking into those allegations.

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