CPDS Home Contact Professionalism: Chronological Summary

21 November 1999

To Mr Len Scanlan,
Auditor General

I refer again to my letter of 3rd October 1999, about the professional adequacy of a politicised Public Service, and to your reply of 6th October which drew attention to the position of the Auditor General as a statutory office responsible to Parliament.

I am not sure that I really understand what the significance of being a statutory office holder is in such matters.

For example, another statutory office holder, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administrative Investigations reached a determination in 1993 that it would have been wrong for merit to have been considered in relation to a grievance about the process of senior staff selection, because legislation explicitly prevented appeals against SES appointments. The deputy Ombudsman verbally indicated that such legislation potentially permitted injustices to occur which could not be resolved. However, amazingly, the Ombudsman's Office did not then report to Parliament that the latter's legislation could result in ir-resolvable injustices. Is this really what Parliament expects of a statutory office holder?

A slightly more positive example, involves the Criminal Justice Commission, which confirmed on 11th October 1999 that its parallel investigation of the granting of an internet casino licence had only sought evidence of official misconduct and had not considered the effect of politicisation. The CJC then went on to state that it does consider politicisation to be an important issue which warrants future investigation - though it does not intend to do anything at the present time. Is this what Parliament expects of a statutory office holder?

What is the responsibility of a statutory office holder when things are going seriously wrong with the business of government due to the effect of political decisions, and the persons responsible (and the Opposition) clearly have no idea of the effects of their actions?

It used to be the responsibility of Public Servants to provide 'frank and fearless' advice when politicians were intent on doing stupid things - but experience during the 1990s shows that this is no longer a viable option. Who is now responsible for blowing the whistle?

[Signed John Craig]

PS: I enclose a letter dated 18th October 1999 which outlined comments to the CJC about the difficulty and importance of politicisation for any organization concerned with official misconduct. Also enclosed is a copy of a letter dated 21st November 1999 to Dr David Watson, which concerns another aspect of the impact of politicisation on the professional status of the Public Service.