Wellington Scoop

Was there a leak about Winston Peters? Inland Revenue and MSD investigating

News from Inland Revenue
The acting Commissioner of Inland Revenue, Cath Atkins, has confirmed that Inland Revenue is looking into an allegation that information pertaining to Winston Peters’ superannuation had been leaked from Inland Revenue.

The allegation was made, and then publicly withdrawn yesterday, by a journalist. Ms Atkins said Inland Revenue takes allegations of this kind very seriously.

“And it’s important to point out that under the tax secrecy provisions (section 81) of the Tax Administration Act, the Minister of Revenue would not be briefed, and had not been briefed, on this matter as it relates to an individual taxpayer,” she said.

“We are looking into the allegation even though it has been withdrawn. To preserve public trust and confidence, we need to be satisfied that there is no evidence of wrongdoing. That work is ongoing.”

Ms Atkins said Inland Revenue had very clear code of conduct requirements that all our staff were aware of, and very strict tax secrecy obligations in respect of individual taxpayer affairs.

“Until we’re able to discover more about the allegation, Inland Revenue will not be commenting any further,” she said.

Statement from State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes
The ‘No Surprises Convention’ is set out in the Cabinet Manual and requires departments to inform Ministers promptly of matters of significance within their portfolio responsibilities, particularly where these matters may be controversial or may become the subject of public debate.

I am advised that the convention exists because of Ministerial accountability to Parliament. Ministers are accountable to the Parliament for the conduct of the department they have portfolio responsibility for.

It is essential that Ministers are aware of significant issues within their portfolios so they can answer to the Parliament. However, they must not become involved in operational matters within Departments.

The Chief Executive of MSD discussed this issue with me.

Mr Boyle and I sought advice from the Solicitor-General on the appropriate way to ensure decisions were made independently and the requirement to ensure Ministers were not surprised was met.

My advice to Mr Boyle was that MSD should deal with Mr Peters’ case in line with the agency’s standard policies and procedures, in exactly the same way as would happen for any other New Zealander. I am assured that is what happened.

Briefings were provided to the Minister of Social Development by MSD, and to the Minister of State Services by SSC.

No briefings were given to Ministers until after all decisions were made. That ensured there could not have been inappropriate involvement in operational decisions, while allowing Ministers to be aware of significant matters in their portfolio.

There was an expectation that these matters would be held in confidence by Ministers.

When these briefings were given they contained very limited details.

It is entirely unacceptable for Public Servants to leak information. Leaking official information would undermine the trust New Zealanders have in the Public Service. Leaking is a political act which would compromise the political neutrality of the Public Service.

There will be zero tolerance for any behaviour of this nature in the Public Service and both MSD and Inland Revenue have launched investigations to assess whether a leak took place.

Gordon Campbell on Winston Peters and MSD

1 comment:

  1. Anabel, 30. August 2017, 8:01

    Though I am not a fan of the govts ” Winston Party,” and he is letting down the elderly who are being fleeced by overseas rest home setups, I must say that once again the Crown and Parliament are covering up Privacy Act breaches by IRD and WINZ. The unlawful decisions made by these Crown entities (IRD, WINZ, MSD) are never “independent” of the Crown.