Good governance and the Labour Party – an oxymoron or a chance for their future

A guest post by Frances Denz.


Good Governance practice was initially developed in 1844 by Erskine May for the British Parliament and a bit later? in 1874 was adapted by Roberts in the US for their Government structures.? Since then “Roberts Rules” have become the model for governance both of parliamentary systems and for businesses.? These rules have been adapted over time by the Foundation formed by Roberts supporters.

A key rule of governance is who do the directors represent?? They represent the business or organisation.? Their job, as stewards, is to ensure that the organisation is governed for its own good.? Not for the shareholders, other stakeholders or the community as a whole.

Now this is really interesting in the governance of political parties and of Parliament themselves.

The Prime Minister and his Cabinet have stewardship over the whole country.? Not the Party: not sector interests: not their mates.? A political party has stewardship over the Party as a whole, not the country.? So where does that leave the Opposition? I submit that they are responsible to the country, as is the Governing party.? But the problem with the Labour Party is that their method of nominating their leader is by the sector interests having a vote – for their own interests.? And the Leader has been, by default, the Leader of the Party as well as the Leader? of the Political wing.? Two different roles. (and then you have the Leader of the House, just to complicate matters!) ?? Read more »

Another angry reader emails

There are so many I am only picking the best now.

corrution a

Elected local government officials have a sworn duty to protect not only our democracy, but also the framework of that very process that achieves democracy, transparency and accountability. ?The process & framework are there to ensure no one is enabled, or is capable of perverting the very ?rules/laws/code of conduct/ethics/framework? for their own personal, corrupted benefit.

Subverting and ?gaming? bureaucratic frameworks and processes, checks and balances that then allows & encourages further tenure & questionable?behaviors?from the dodgy individual ? and all with?unchecked productivity/spending from the same dodgy person ? can only translate to hopelessly compromised Councillors also, or some might say, political corruption.

And in years past, that ?further enabling? by compromised Councillors, who chose not to stop the enabling of a corrupt official, would be seen as political corruption and even treason upon the Nation. ?? Read more »

About time

The NZ Herald has an editorial today about the proposed Watchdog on open government.

Since its introduction by the Muldoon government in 1982, the Official Information Act has been a powerful force for transparency and accountability.

The public, as well as journalists, have benefited from the release of information detailing the inner workings of central and local government. But, as a just-released Law Commission issues paper makes clear, the legislation is due for an overhaul. Updating is essential, given the manner in which the digital revolution has driven social and culture change, including a greater expectation of openness and availability of information.

Bloggers are also increasingly using the OIA to go digging.

Equally, the law has not been free of flaws. Some public servants have been reluctant to apply it in both letter and spirit, choosing to stall or thwart public access to documents. Almost a decade ago, the Ombudsman’s alarm over this tendency sparked a call for the development of an “official information” culture that acknowledged both bureaucrats’ responsibility and the public’s ultimate ownership of information.

The Law Commission paper, entitled The Public’s Right to Know, treads a similar path but takes a different tack. Agencies, it says, should take “all reasonable steps” to make information proactively available, taking account of factors such as the information they held and the public interest in it.

This is important. In order to hold politicians to account you need to ask questions, but the hardest part is asking the right question so that you get the information you are really after. My experience with the OIA is a mixed bag. Currently I have two requests that have passed the 20 days months ago. The Police haven’t even acknowledged that they?received?one of the requests.

The issue paper also tackles the vexed issue of the withholding of information. The act is based on the principle that information should be made available unless there is good reason for refusing it. Commercially sensitive material or privacy issues offers such grounds, but this has always been a subject of confusion. Usefully, the paper suggests clearer guidelines could be prepared from the body of precedent, based on case notes of the Ombudsmen, who handle appeals if government departments refuse to release information.

The Office of the Ombudsman has to some degree already taken over this guidance function. But this has come about by default, rather than design.

The issues paper notes that no body is, in fact, responsible for championing open government or acting as a watchdog of underlying open government principles. It asks whether a separate body, an Information Commission, should be charged with this role. It would operate along the same lines as, and be a counterpoint to, the Privacy Commission.

That is easily solved, and this blogger has constantly called for the establishment of just such an?independent?institution. In Australia they have the Independent Commission Against Corruption. We should similarly have one here. There have been many examples where a truly?Independent?Commission?Against?Corruption would have been able to act and get better answers than the faux investigations?intimated?at the time.

An ICAC could have looked into things like the pledge card and the Owen Glenn donations, Taito Philip Field, like inappropriate use of computers and using parliamentary services staff to campaign,?as well as the scandals like in NSW.

As is usual these days with the Law Commission, they made a good start, but lacked the bottle to further where needed. One such extension would be to apply the OIA to parliamentary services spending. The politicians will never let that open as long as their troughing arses are pointing at the ground. Labour especially, but all parties want OIA requests on their spending like they want to catch cancer. Yet there really is no other way to hold them to account and waiting 3 years to toss them out is far too long.

Coupled with the extensions to the OIA and the establishment of an ICAC the next step to improve?accountability?of?politicians?at all levels from local body to parliament would be the power of recall.

Holding Len to Account

Yesterday I had lunch with Gooner and Cactus Kate at Daikoku on the North Shore. A good mate of mine is the manager there. Anyway Cactus and I went for a stroll down the Mayoral Stagger Path and we came across a bus shelter with a sign up for Looney Len Brown.

On the weekend Len Brown said;

He said there was no requirement for him to disclose who he spent council money on.

“Transparency is not a perfect thing,” he added.

“Transparency doesn’t just happen in a perfect world. You have to measure that up against other significant principles and that’s what I’m doing and I will live or die on that.

“If people make a judgment and say, ‘we all agree you should tell everybody who you are seeing all the time’, then I’ll say, ‘that’s it – I am not the mayor any more’.

Len Brown lies again. Clause 5.1 of the council policy for use of the credit/purchase card specifically requires him to outline exactly who was in attendence at any meeting or otherwise that the card was used at. The card was used at Volare, it was paid for by the council, Len Brown and his lawyer wife say it was council business, therefore Len Brown is required to disclose who he was with.

He also states that if people make a judgment and say that he should tell who he is seeing then he will quit. Well this blogger takes Len Brown at his word, albeit that he is a proven liar. I have accordingly submitted a LGOIMA request asking precisely who was at that Volare dinner. So far it has been met with silence, it could hardly take a few minutes to jot down the names and respond.

If Len Brown doesn’t disclose the names by Friday, then he should resign, as he promised. If there are any other Manukau residents who feel the same, then drop me a line via the tipline and I’ll start a list of residents who think our Mayor should be accountable.