No matter which way you look at it the appointment of Ian Fletcher to head the Government Communications Security Bureau stinks to high heaven – and that’s before we get to the John Key brainfade. (“I forgot I’d rung him and invited him to apply”)
Since when does the Prime Minister get to give one of his friends the inside running for the top job at our main spy agency? Or any other job for that matter.
It wasn’t common knowledge that the entire shortlist for the GCSB role, prepared by a recruitment agency, was rejected by the State Services Commission but the Prime Minister knew and he got on the phone (“I knew his number”) to call his friend Fletcher and invite him to apply.
What followed was in itself unusual with only one candidate being interviewed and this was – no prizes for guessing – the Prime Minister’s friend who then got the job.
Key did a similar thing when he gave the inside running to Skycity for the building of a national convention centre in the now infamous pokies/convention centre trade-off proposal.
In that case despite a field of contenders Key changed the rules and quickly manoeuvred his favourite (Skycity) into pole position. The race was over before the other entrants even knew it had begun. Similarly now with the Prime Minister’s friend elevated to a top job after Key’s direct intervention.
Key’s supporters like to excuse such behaviour as the Prime Minister’s propensity for “doing deals” – a hangover from his currency trading days for the now defunct Merrill Lynch. Pick up the phone, cut to the chase and shortcut the process. One could possibly mount some sort of defence of this behaviour in some situations if any of these deals were half-way decent but they aren’t. They might be good for Key and his cronies but they are bad for the country.
Then we get to Key’s “lie by omission” last week.
He was asked by parliamentary reporters what part he played in Fletcher’s appointment. Key’s response was “Only that the State Services Commissioner came to me with the recommendation. That’s normal.”
A week later and the truth emerges that Key had in fact called his friend Fletcher and invited him to apply.
“I forgot” is just not good enough.
The stench of cronyism is high. An inquiry is essential.