A report into the leak of documents about restructuring
plans at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade ordered by
State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie has traced the leak
back his own department.
Mr Rennie confirmed the person "strongly suspected" of the
leak of Cabinet papers to Labour foreign affairs spokesman
Phil Goff was a former Labour Party researcher employed on a
short-term contract .
The report also found the commission failed to guard against
the risks posed by having a former political staffer handle
While the leak was previously linked to that clerical
assistant, the report also savaged two senior MFAT employees,
including an ambassador for publicly airing their concerns
about the restructuring.
The 18-month $510,000 investigation by Paula Rebstock was
"unable to find definitive evidence of who was responsible
for the unauthorised disclosure of the Cabinet papers".
However, Ms Rebstock reported "a strong suspicion" that the
leak of the Cabinet papers was made by a temporary staff
member working at the commission.
"I am extremely saddened and disappointed by this," Mr Rennie
told reporters today.
That person identified by Ms Rebstock took legal action in a
bid to prevent her suspicions from being reported to Mr
Rennie and a High Court suppression order prevents him from
The person had previously worked in the Labour Party research
unit, Mr Rennie said.
Ms Rebstock's report found the commission assigned the person
to handle sensitive government documents "without mitigating
possible risks due to the person's prior work for a political
party; likely lack of experience of following Cabinet
guidelines for handling Cabinet papers; and dual role working
the secure area of the Commissioner's Office and in the more
public area of SSC."
While the hiring of people who'd previously worked for
political parties was not problematic, "it is the
department's responsibility to induct, train, and provide
oversight to mitigate any risk".
Meanwhile, the report also found the behaviour of some
managers at MFAT during the restructuring "fell below the
standards expected of people in their position", by creating
a perception within the department that it was acceptable to
air their opposition to the changes publicly an allow it to
be used for "political purposes".
Ms Rebstock also found it "probable" that some senior MFAT
staff leaked a variety of confidential material to Mr Goff
and to the media.
Mr Rennie said he considered whether the three people
involved should be publicly identified but concluded it
wasn't in the public interest due to the further litigation
and expenditure of public money that would entail.
He was unaware of any disciplinary action taken against the
MFAT staff identified as probably leaking material to Mr
Goff. The pair include a Head of Mission or ambassador.
Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the report suggested a
number of officials were placed under pressure from Mr Goff
to release information that they were not entitled to
"It also records that a former researcher from the
parliamentary offices of the Labour Party found employment at
the State Services Commission, had possession of the leaked
Cabinet papers and was unable to satisfactorily explain the
scanning of documents that exactly matched the size of the
two papers. I believe the public can draw their own
conclusions both as to the actions of this individual and the
role played by Mr Goff."
But Mr Goff told the Herald he did not know the identity,
background or even gender of the person who supplied the
Cabinet Papers. He freely acknowledged ringing MFAT staff for
information about the restructuring but said as the
Opposition foreign affairs spokesman, he had no power to
He described the trio fingered by Ms Rebstock as
"whistleblowers" who had acted in the public interest to
reveal the restructuring that harmed New Zealand's diplomatic
"We lost some of the most skilled and experienced diplomats
who had served successive governments loyally and
professionally," he said.
"The inquiry should have been into how the Government managed
to get the restructuring so wrong. Even Foreign Affairs
Minister Murray McCully was forced to admit the job had been
botched and blamed chief executive John Allen."
- By Adam Bennett of the New Zealand Herald