Full tribunal needed to restore public’s faith
IF YOU believe Education and Policy & Resources, they are doing everything possible to be open and transparent over the appointment of the head of curriculum and standards.
They have 1,400 pages of submissions just sitting there waiting to be examined – initially there were just some ‘light touches’ to remove bits and bobs from a quarter of them for data protection reasons.
But if you believe Scrutiny, these redactions are heavy, the black pen used so widely that it simply makes an independent investigation and then publication of all the findings impossible, especially when data protection requirements are mixed into the equation.
So who do you believe?
Whose interest has it served to take this can and not simply kick it down the road but use a missile launcher to send it into the laps of the new States, thus avoiding any accountability?
It is nearly a year since the saga unfolded where the Education president Matt Fallaize was so upset with not getting his way on an appointment panel that he dashed off an email that was the smoking gun as to the level of political interference in what should be a fair recruitment process.
We know the person who initially accepted later turned down the job, but only after a ‘chat’ with education personnel, clearing the path for the committee’s favoured person.
There are question marks about whether policy was met in applying for the employment permit.
The States dropped its defence of an unfair dismissal claim from a member of the HR team, which would have exposed what went on just before it went public.
Policy & Resources argues still that Scrutiny should do the review and there is no need for a full judicial review that would bring the force of law into play.
It is so conflicted in this, as the political body responsible for employment, it is hard to know why it is allowed to get involved in this decision-making process.
By doing so it has been able to obstruct what could have been a swift resolution and to all intents and purposes cover the tracks of all those involved through the power of time.
Everyone knows that the longer it is left unresolved, the more other events will take over and the hope is surely that fatigue will set in and the public will lose interest.
It is a sorry state of affairs because nobody can look you in the eye right now and say that the States recruitment process is fair and balanced – they will not be able to do so until the evidence is there for the public to see.
ESC and P&R have turned down an opportunity to release their correspondence.
We challenged them to do so as it would not only shine a light on what happened, it would also show whether Scrutiny was right to say the redactions go too far.
Remember that all this correspondence has been cleared as suitable for public consumption via the review.
In deciding against release they did not cite any legal justification, they did not invoke the access to information code provisions, instead they spoke simply of a duty of care to their staff.
They could ask the staff for permission, they could release the political correspondence, they could do anything to help clear their names, but instead they continue to bury things.
Actions speak volumes.
We all know that politicians can navigate a way to do something should they want to, in this case the conclusion must be they do not.
The words coming from the two committees involved are painfully at odds with their actions.
Now P&R’s case is that we should wait, because in May Scrutiny could have new powers that will allow it to overcome ‘many of the challenges’ it has faced.
It also argues that panel members for a full tribunal of inquiry are unlikely to be appointed until then anyway.
By P&R’s reckoning, the committee could report back by the end of September.
The senior committee, and its Education counterparts, are content that the public damage done by all this delay is worth it as we straddle an election period.
This will remain a dark stain on this Assembly, another case of it being unable to demonstrate transparency and accountability, of good behaviours and structures leading to sound decisions being made.
This States is dysfunctional and this saga ably demonstrates that both in how the recruitment unfolded and how it has subsequently been defended.
A full tribunal is the only way for the public to have faith this has been fairly investigated and not politicised for other means.