News from PSA
The Public Service Association has contacted the Department of Conservation to get clarification about its inquiry into leaked emails and its review of decision-making regarding the Ruataniwha Dam project.
The PSA has sought reassurances from DOC about the way the inquiry will be run. The PSA represents over 1300 members at DOC and will be ensuring that any members who are asked to take part in the inquiry are treated fairly and have proper support available.
“Because senior managers and the Minister of Conservation Nick Smith are heavily involved and the political stakes are high, it is appropriate that the department has appointed an external party to conduct the inquiry to ensure it is as robust and transparent as possible,” says PSA National Secretary Brenda Pilott.
“You can’t have a process in which managers are reviewing their own decisions. DOC has reassured us that the review and inquiry will be handled externally. There’s still a question over whether the review will extend beyond the leak and whether political interference played a part in the department’s decision making”.
In general terms, the PSA says that the leak highlights gaps in the process for public servants to be able to raise issues and ethical concerns outside of internal structures.
“Here we have a case of public servants, who are best placed to make recommendations, having no one to turn to with their genuine concerns when their work is compromised. Although we do not advocate leaks, we do believe there should be a process in place for public servants. The current whistleblowing legislation is inadequate in this respect.”
The PSA recommends that if other public servants feel compromised or have similar misgivings that they should contact their union in the first instance.
Media release from Dept of Conservation
The Director General of Conservation Lou Sanson has asked for a review of the department’s process for dealing with its submission on the Tukituki Catchment Proposal.
Mr Sanson says he stands by the decision taken by his senior managers not to submit on the wider environmental aspects of the proposal and says the Minister did not direct DOC about the submission it was making. But he does have questions about the time frames for making final decisions on the submission.
Mr Sanson says he has also initiated an internal investigation into the unauthorised release of a departmental email in connection with the submission. He says the release of these emails calls the department’s integrity into question and he has asked an independent reviewer to look into this issue.