Media Statement: SSC investigation of whistle blower treatment within the Ministry of Transport
State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes has today announced that the State Services Commission is taking over responsibility for investigating the treatment of Public Servants within the Ministry of Transport who raised concerns about the conduct of Joanne Harrison.
There has been public concern that Public Servants raised issues about Ms Harrison’s activities within the Ministry of Transport and subsequently lost their jobs in a restructure Ms Harrison was involved in.
“Public Servants must be able to raise concerns without fear of punishment or reprisal,” Mr Hughes said.
“If Public Servants raised genuine concerns through proper channels and were then disadvantaged in any way because of it, that would be completely unacceptable and something I view very seriously,” he said.
“This morning I met with former Ministry of Transport staff members to discuss how they were treated and what happened after they raised concerns about Ms Harrison’s activities,” said Mr Hughes.
“The Secretary of Transport set up an independent review process for current or former staff to raise concerns about their treatment by Ms Harrison, which is entirely appropriate and I commend him for taking action to look into concerns from staff,” Mr Hughes said.
“However, given the public interest in this matter and the importance of Public Servants being able to raise concerns without fear, this process needs to have the independence of the State Services Commission and the powers of investigation under the State Sector Act,” said Mr Hughes.
“This investigation will assess whether any Ministry of Transport staff members were disadvantaged after they raised concerns and if they were, make recommendations for an appropriate remedy,” he said.
Ms Sandi Beatie QSO will carry out the investigation supported by the State Services Commission’s Chief Legal Officer and other SSC staff as required. Ms Beatie will report to the State Services Commissioner.
“Ms Beatie is a very experienced and highly regarded former senior Public Servant and Deputy State Services Commissioner,” Mr Hughes said.
“If anyone feels they were disadvantaged by Ms Harrison during their employment at the Ministry of Transport I ask them to come forward so the matter can be investigated,” said Mr Hughes.
Matters relating to the Controller and Auditor-General are outside the State Services Commissioner’s jurisdiction and are the responsibility of the Speaker of the House.
The investigation will look into:
- Whether or not any current or former employee of the Ministry of Transport (including contractors or secondees) who raised concern about the behaviour of Joanne Harrison was disadvantaged in their employment as a result of raising those concerns;
- If so, the circumstances of any disadvantage that occurred;
- What, if anything, should now occur by way of remedy;
- Any recommendation on the implementation and management of protected disclosures or complaint mechanisms within the public service.
Media contact: Tim Ingleton SSC (04) 495 6648