A personal letter on ministerial letterhead. Looks like a conflict of interest to me.

So, a heap of personal information about ACC claimants gets sent by mistake to another ACC claimant, including information about sensitive claims, and instead of doing the decent thing and alerting ACC to the horrendous mistake, the recipient is alleged to have tried to use it to gain a personal advantage, and a prominent National party person is there backing her up. Smells bloody fishy just as it is.

But then it all gets worse. It turns out that the ACC minister had previously written a letter in support of the recipient, urging her case for her. Her case to get a benefit from ACC, that is.

He said it was written in his personal capacity. You can read about it on Radio New Zealand News.

I said as a friend, I knew you in that period and in a personal capacity. And I made absolutely plain it was a personal capacity, that I knew her prior to that period and my view in terms of the state of her health and employment prior to that period.

But here’s the funny thing. It seems that the letter was written on ministerial letterhead.

ACC Minister’s ‘error of judgement’

So that’s the minister in charge of ACC, writing to ACC, on his letterhead, urging that this person’s claim be supported.

Looks pretty damn official to me. Or is this just yet another example of National party ministers confusing the public and the private, and thinking that what benefits them and their mates necessarily benefits New Zealand?

Yes, we know Ministers of the Crown have friends. I’ve got friends too. And I know damned well that if one of my friends turns up in my classes, then I make a careful separation between my friend and my student. I ensure that I don’t give her extra assistance over and above the assistance I would give to any of my students, and I get all her work marked by someone else, and I keep everything as open and above board as possible. That’s what an ethical person does. And it’s not at all difficult to work out.

Dr Smith, if you write a letter in your personal capacity, then at the very least, don’t use your Ministerial letterhead to do so. And preferably, don’t write the letter at all, given that it’s your very own department.

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3 comments on “A personal letter on ministerial letterhead. Looks like a conflict of interest to me.

  1. daleaway says:

    Stinks on ice.

    The cronyism of this government is appalling. It must be for it to have reached the point when even the right-leaning MSM is running stories featuring it.
    The government won’t sacrifice Smith though, even though that would be the appropriate and ethical thing to do. Cronyism will prevail in his favour as well.

    What a shower.

  2. tim says:

    Something that I am failing to understand over this is if the Minister had a friend who was experiencing difficulties with the department, acting on behalf of that individual does nothing to solve the systemic issue which made the process difficult and this by someone in a role structure the legislation governing the process (granting that everyday influence isn’t permitted). It speaks of someone willing to see the problems of a friend but not relate to the wider public as also important. This is not someone I’m comfortable being a Minister and it’s good he is no longer in that role but the narrow mentality behind the actions disturb me as I suspect other Ministers aren’t thinking greatly different.

    Thanks for your post.

  3. daleaway says:

    One letter he could have got away with – TWO was too much to stomach, even for Key.

    Why do I think the quick sacking was to close down investigations and prevent further details coming out?

    This is after all much they way they handled the previous Richard Worth debacle – the details of the complaint made about him to police have never become public because Cabinet got shot of him so fast.

    If I were a journo I’d stick with the Smith affair. The full story might be worth reading, if we ever get to see it.

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