Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem to launch post-election inquiry

█ What today’s ODT editorial doesn’t tell you, story sunk not headlining…..

“We may as well kiss democracy goodbye” –The Standard
By NATWATCH, published at 8:13 am, September 19th, 2014
The words of the title of this post are those of Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem …. Yet another typical scandal from the dirtiest government ever seen in NZ. Read more + Comments

Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem to launch wide-ranging inquiry after election in respect of OIA practices

### NZ Herald Online 5:30 AM Friday Sep 19, 2014
Ombudsman ‘appalled’ by ex-Customs lawyer’s OIA allegations
By David Fisher
A former Customs lawyer claim that he was told to bury bad news matches similar stories which have sparked a wide-ranging inquiry by Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem. She said she was “appalled” by Curtis Gregorash’s claim. “Having said that one of the reasons I am undertaking of selected agencies in respect of their OIA practices is that anecdotally a number of people have told me similar stories,” she said. She said a planned inquiry to be launched after the election could see the Ombudsman’s office using its Commission of Inquiry powers to compel evidence to be given under oath were there signs information was being hidden. “Ministerial offices will be figuring in our inquiry and that is all I will say.”
Read more

Tweet from Chris Slane (@Slanecartoons) tweeted at 9.18 AM on Fri, Sep 19, 2014 (1)

****

Whistleblower Curtis Gregorash said he was subjected to an internal investigation after releasing information about Dotcom sought by the NZ Herald through the Official Information Act. The information released saw Customs staff discuss earning “brownie points” by passing on Dotcom information to the FBI.

### NZ Herald Online 5:30 AM Friday Sep 19, 2014
Ex-Customs lawyer claims he was told to bury info that could embarrass the Government
By David Fisher
A former high-ranking Customs lawyer says he resigned from his job after allegedly being told to bury information that could embarrass the Government.
Curtis Gregorash said he was told by senior Customs executives to refuse Official Information Act and Privacy Act requests, which he believed was at the direction of former Customs Minister Maurice Williamson. It comes at a time the Prime Minister’s office is under inquiry over the release of intelligence material through the OIA and accusations that former Justice Minister Judith Collins was manipulating OIA responses for political purposes. [Mr] Gregorash quit his role as Customs’ chief legal counsel in March this year after more than a decade as a government lawyer.

The lawyer turned whistleblower said: “I’ve sat on it for a long time. But the story itself is so awful it needs to be told. I think people really need to see what ministers and some senior executives do.

He had decided to speak because he believed the alleged instruction “was unlawful”, undermined the way the public service was meant to operate and was given for what was ultimately political reasons. “The direction came down (from the minister) through the CEO (Carolyn Tremain) and group manager (of legal services) Peter Taylor to me saying ‘you don’t release anything – I don’t care what the OIA says, I’d rather fight it in the courts’.”
Mr Gregorash said the alleged instruction came during a briefing from Mr Taylor to the legal team in which he referred to Ms Tremain and meeting with Mr Williamson. “I resigned over it. I couldn’t stare my staff in the face and say this is actually serious conduct that’s being presented to you in a lawful way.”
Mr Gregorash said the alleged instruction to withhold information was general – but became specific in relation to “sensitive” issues, including entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, wanted for copyright violation in the United States. “Mr Taylor directed me to withhold all information and pass the same direction on to my team.”
Read more

● In the public interest, lengthy citation of articles by David Fisher at New Zealand Herald (APNZ).

Related Post:
21.3.13 Public service causing “paralysis of democracy” with OIA requests

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

13 Comments

Filed under Business, Democracy, Hot air, Media, Name, New Zealand, People, Pics, Politics

13 responses to “Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem to launch post-election inquiry

  1. Elizabeth

    Getting The Message: Chris Trotter’s ‘From The Left’ Column, Election Eve, 2014.
    This has been an election like no other I have experienced. Oh, sure, I have been in town halls that were packed before. And I have heard people arguing the toss over policy before. But, in the past, those town halls had been packed by people who had come to hear their political leaders. Those arguments had been over the content of the various party manifestos.
    Not this time. In 2014 some of the biggest turnouts have been for journalists – not politicians.
    http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.co.nz/2014/09/getting-message-chris-trotters-from.html

  2. Elizabeth

    Comment to ODT Online – not published:

    APNZ partners
    new
    Submitted by ej kerr on Fri, 19/09/2014 – 2:43pm.

    ODT readers are missing out on this NZ Herald story – Ombudsman ‘appalled’ by ex-Customs lawyer’s OIA allegations. This on election eve, c’mon ODT play nicely – keep the people informed, an inquiry into OIA practices to include ministerial offices is to be launched after the election.

    Finally (note time of tweet):

    Tweet from ODT Online (@odtnews) tweeted at 4.58 PM on Fri, Sep 19, 2014

  3. Cars

    Totalitarianism requires assistance from the fourth estate.

    However, bloggers have a small window of opportunity, it is only the captured bloggers like Cameron or the left glitterati who can retain sufficient bulls..t cred to stifle real bloggers intent upon revealing the truth. The sad thing about moment of truth is that Leila Harre and Kim Dotcom got in the way of the real message. 1984 was here, 2014 is much worse. Exposés of US totalitarian ambitions will be vilified and ideally locked up and the masses like lemmings will march to their own destruction.

  4. It is really disturbing when the Chief Ombudsman, Dame Beverley Wakem says she is “Appalled” at the revelations by Customs dept lawyer, Mr Gregorash regarding interference of the freedom of information under the Official Information Act. By officials up to and including the Minister himself. The arbitrary cherry picking of what may or may not be released is blatant disregard for the law and shows the state of government we live under. We are seeing instances of this frequently, even from the Minister of Justice Judith Collins herself forcing her to eventually resign over her actions. Even here in Dunedin we see this flagrant abuse of the law by Terry Davies the CEO of DVML in his very selective release of heavily censored information regarding the deal between the ORFU and DVML. This was in response to a legitimate request by Bev Butler under the OIA for the release of the terms of that deal. The idea that the law is there to be flouted as seems fit is part of the culture which these “good ole boys” live in. I suspect this is what Dame Wakem is on about. She is right in requesting all dodgey activity to be referred to her office, before the next government shuts her down.

  5. Hype O'Thermia

    Looks like in order to get information (to which we are entitled by law) we have to have personal coaching from a “friendly” politician or one of their henchmen, so we can frame the query with such precision that there’s no wriggling away from full disclosure. No wonder Ms Wakem’s not best pleased. It stinks.

    • Elizabeth

      However, Wakem has been pleased under political duress (call it lies) to ignore Martin Legge’s whistleblowing on the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) where because of certain ministers multimillion-dollar fraud against the Community has taken place – and continues to do so – through pokie trusts, professional rugby, racing, money laundering entities, private trusts, lawyers and accountants et al in between. Martin Legge has the evidence and has presented a good slice of it to the so-called public good agencies before being silenced, they thought. Wakem took the word of ‘particular individuals’ at DIA, SFO and Audit NZ/OAG. So if she’s awake now, she will need a similar size budget almost to get the sleep out of her eyes. She should also consider shipping out if she can’t shape up.

  6. Rob Hamlin

    Selective or non release of information goes on…..What do you expect? There is no personal downside to this activity. If you have something you want to hide, you don’t release it. The worst that can happen if you haven’t done your networking properly down at the club/lodge/golf course is that you will be told to release it by the Ombudsman. You may release (some of) it at that point, or you may simply continue to refuse to do so altogether. What happens then? The Ombudsman may possibly apply their maximum sanction and report you to Parliament, that’s what – Horror!

  7. Dame Beverley will Wakem up. We also need broadcaster Barbara Bashem who would, well, you know what she would do.

  8. At least Barbara Bashem, alias Aunt Daisy had the ‘sun shining up her back passage’.

    • What? Horreurs. Maud Basham was Aunt Daisy, Barbara her daughter was Head of Current Affairs, NZBC. I’m not saying Barbara did actually ‘bash ’em’, but she showed anodyne men the rounds of the Kitchen.

  9. Elizabeth

    Dame Beverley believes there is fundamentally nothing wrong with the act [OIA], only the execution.

    Dame Beverley’s health check will surely confirm that much more needs to be done. One should be changing the legislation’s name to the Freedom of Information Act. The information belongs, after all, to us, not to officials.

    ### NZ Herald Online 5:00 AM Friday Jan 16, 2015
    Editorial: Information act overdue for overhaul
    Just before Christmas, the Chief Ombudsman announced she had begun a review of all aspects of Official Information Act practice. It will be wide-ranging, encompassing a formal review of 12 government agencies and a survey of all 27 ministers’ offices and a further 63 agencies. Dame Beverley Wakem says the inquiry is needed to assure the public that both the letter and spirit of the law are being observed by the custodians of public information. Several recent episodes suggest that providing such assurance will be a tall order. And that the time has come for a beefing up of the power of the office of the Ombudsman. As much is underlined by the increasing politicisation of the release of information. This is a consequence of the “no surprises” policy introduced by the previous Government. The possibilities afforded by a requirement to tell ministers when information on which they might be questioned was to be released have been grasped eagerly by its successor.
    Read more + Comments

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