Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Next Labour Leader

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  • Russell Brown, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Nikki Kettle, who works as an assessor, for which she earns $180,000 a year ($75 an hour), plus allowances of up to $24,000, has also landed one of the sought-after assessing jobs next year.

    These jobs will return an hourly rate of $55. Her mother, Gail Kettle, is the EQC claims manager.

    The family is from the North Island..

    The fuck?

    Many people of senior management status, with considerable expectations of accountability, get a lot less than that.

    $75 an hour for professional services is acceptable -- even on the low side -- in a contract situation, where there are costs in doing business (and certainly no $24,000 in reimbursements) but as a rate for an employed position it seems extraordinary to me.

    Wow.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17939 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Isaac Freeman,

    But nepotism is a specific claim: it’s not enough that there’s a family relationship and the job is paid well.

    What the actual fuck do you actually need to alter the definition of nepotism than
    relation paid heaps without real qualifications- because they are a relation of the employing person? Hmmm?

    “nepotism: undue favour shown to relatives e.g. by giving them jobs etc.”

    [Islander, Emma. I've edited your comment to remove personal abuse, and also I can assure you that you couldn't be more wrong.]

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Managment should not be able to employ family members in such circumstance - it is too conflicted and just plain wrong.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1157 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The fuck?

    quite

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15715 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Isaac Freeman,

    Culture of waste? Inflated salaries? Rushed hiring process? An organisation that suddenly had to do a job it was never designed for? Stressed people throwing money at problems because there's no time to organise a better process?

    Fiscal Tourettes? Circumstantial Kleptomania? Good-heavens-no-that-sort-of-thing-only-happens-in-the-third world?

    Perhaps any sufficiently advanced cock-up is indistinguishable from corruption.

    Food for thought eh Isaac?. Perhaps you'll be putting in a word for this overstressed bumbler when he comes up for sentence. The $21,208 restitution sought seems pretty small beer compared to what's being 'inadvertently' creamed off from the EQC.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3291 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Isaac, I begin to think you are a fuckwit, with an agenda for the right-

    Rather ironic coming from someone who’s sounding an awful lot like Cameron Slater – the incredibly serious allegations made with no real evidence, but who gives a damn because “the enemy” must be guilty! Right?

    Yeah, I totally agree with Russell that EQC really does need to answer serious questions about pay rates for staff assessors that look seriously out of kilter – even if Isaac is right and they’re trying to hire a lot of people quickly by flashing the chequebook around. (Which is not exactly an outrageously uncommon recruitment technique.) And since the allegations of nepotism are out there, EQC better be able to show there are robust Conflict of Interest management processes in place that are being followed to the last punctuation mark.

    But damn, Islander, remarkably efficient of you to slap on the black cap without bothering to be judge and jury first. Who needs to bother asking questions when you've already got all the answers?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Isaac Freeman,

    Perhaps any sufficiently advanced cock-up is indistinguishable from corruption.

    The whole thing seems more like FEMA to me than Watergate.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 3896 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard, in reply to DexterX,

    Managment should not be able to employ family members in such circumstance - it is too conflicted and just plain wrong.

    I agree that a relative should not be involved in the hiring decision, as that is unfair on other candidates.
    However, the Human Rights Act requires that people not be precluded from applying for a job when someone they're related to is also in the firm, unless there's a risk of collusion in the relationship. In other words, it's not Kettle junior's fault that Kettle senior is in management.

    Islander, do you actually know whether the mother was involved in the hiring decision, or how well advertised it was, or whether there were other candidates, or indeed anything about the hiring process? 'Cos if not, that's a pretty serious smear on the character of both parties.

    But yeah, that salary, holy cow, where can I get me some of that???

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 225 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    And am I not the only one to sense a simmering political cauldron, similar to that of the infamous Golden Handshakes of the late 1990s?

    Who remembers that Listener photo of Roger Estall surrounded by maybe 100-200 pissed-off firefighters with placards? The way things are going, Minister Tolley could well become the Estall of the school sector.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 3896 posts Report Reply

  • HenryB, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    But damn, Islander, remarkably efficient of you to slap on the black cap without bothering to be judge and jury first. Who needs to bother asking questions when you’ve already got all the answers?

    Would this EQC story be the seed for a modernised NZ version of the The Borgias?

    Palmerston North • Since Sep 2008 • 106 posts Report Reply

  • Isaac Freeman, in reply to Islander,

    What the actual fuck do you actually need to alter the definition of nepotism than relation paid heaps without real qualifications- because they are a relation of the employing person? Hmmm?

    You need the because part. That is, you need evidence that the employee is getting a deal that's different from what other people got. Either because they're paid more or because more qualified people were passed over.

    I completely agree that $180,000 per annum is a ridiculously high salary, and it was quite right to call me on the term "entry-level". I'd scanned the article a bit too fast the first time, and thought $75 per hour sounded reasonable for a job with some responsibility, assuming that we were talking about contact hours rather than total time on the job. So mea culpa there – I skipped past the number with all the zeroes.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 127 posts Report Reply

  • Isaac Freeman, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Perhaps you’ll be putting in a word for this overstressed bumbler when he comes up for sentence.

    I fail to see the connection. This one is a con artist who's already pled guilty. The other one is either a case of nepotism, if evidence can be found for special treatment of the employee, or serious systemic problems that have resulted in unreasonably high salaries being paid.

    Consider Abu Ghraib. The guards committed abusive acts against prisoners, for which they were rightly found responsible. But there was also an incredibly stressful situation that put impossible demands on the guards, making it almost inevitable that they'd make bad decisions. The people responsible for creating that situation evaded responsibility, and the systemic issues weren't addressed. As Zimbardo put it, it wasn't just one bad apple: the whole crate was rotten.

    Obviously we're talking about misuse of public funds here rather than torture, but the as-yet-unproven accusation of nepotism against one person feels to me like a distraction that could allow deeper problems to go unnoticed.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 127 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Isaac Freeman,

    Obviously we’re talking about misuse of public funds here rather than torture, but the as-yet-unproven accusation of nepotism against one person feels to me like a distraction that could allow deeper problems to go unnoticed.

    That, or it could be just the tip of the iceberg.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 3896 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Isaac Freeman,

    . . . the as-yet-unproven accusation of nepotism against one person feels to me like a distraction that could allow deeper problems to go unnoticed.

    Such as?

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3291 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    You know what, Ben - if you actually want try being civil I'll have an ask around because I'm not just going to transcribe great swathes of the National Party constitution because you're visiting from High Dudgeon.

    I'd say pretty please with sugar on top, but you've already answered my question - you don't actually know, and it would take you some time to find out. I was only after a couple of paragraphs outlining the process, which you might have known, certainly that is the impression you've been giving by claiming inner knowledge from your long association with that party, and your sniping at any claims about how it does work.

    At this point, it's up to you if you would like to spend the time to find out what the selection processes are in National - maybe that would be of some value to you, maybe not, since you seem to have actually not voted for them this time. I can ask other people, you know, there's no shortage. DPF, for instance, will know the answer to this straight from the top of his dome.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8015 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Oh dear the media are calling the Labour leader selection...a primary.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2468 posts Report Reply

  • HenryB, in reply to BenWilson,

    At this point, it’s up to you if you would like to spend the time to find out what the selection processes are in National

    Didn't NBH give us a link which provided a fairly comprehensive discussion of this processs? And it may well take more than a couple of paragraphs to describe the process. Even the Labour Party ones take 2-3 pages and are fairly convoluted.

    Palmerston North • Since Sep 2008 • 106 posts Report Reply

  • Isaac Freeman, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Such as?

    Well, it could be that they're paying salaries like that to other people too. It could be that they hired a bunch of people in a rush without checking qualifications properly. It could be that the position was designed for someone highly qualified who'd be travelling all over the country for years investigating small earthquakes, and the people who signed the contracts didn't realise they needed to create a new position.

    I would imagine that EQC currently has a very small number of people who know how things were done up until September 2010, and a much larger number of people who were thrown in at the deep end and had to learn on the job, in a disaster zone, with nobody free to show them the ropes. It's a recipe for bureaucratic foul-ups. And bureaucratic foul-ups lead to finger-pointing. That doesn't mean nobody's to blame, just that the first person to have a finger pointed at them isn't necessarily the sole cause of all problems.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 127 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    I agree that a relative should not be involved in the hiring decision, as that is unfair on other candidates.

    And in the context of the Earthquake Commission, they are subject to the State Services Commissioner’s Standards of Integrity and Conduct:

    It is important we do not give preferential treatment to people we are connected with, either socially, personally, through work or in any other way. Our organisations must have processes that preclude our being involved in deciding matters relating to friends or family, and we must not take part in employment selection processes, or have supervisory responsibilities, that involve another family member.

    FFS, when my David was still working for what was then Toll, I applied for a job in the same section. Even though he has nothing to do with the selection process he was reminded (politely) to avoid doing or saying anything that could even be perceived as an attempt to exert influence.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Isaac Freeman,

    Well thanks for that Isaac.

    That doesn’t mean nobody’s to blame, just that the first person to have a finger pointed at them isn’t necessarily the sole cause of all problems.

    Perhaps there’s something of a rabble-rousing tone about Van Beynen’s article, an attempt to excite the envy of the proletariat before moving on to the next distraction. His earlier piece on the EQC’s dealings with Verifact Australia could perhaps be criticised for playing to nationalistic sentiments. It would be a pity though to read them as such.

    The ‘first person to have a finger pointed at them’ in Van Beynen’s piece is the teenage son of an EQC official. I don’t find the article to be an attempt to deflect blame onto him or any of the others named. Instead they’re presented as evidence of a possible culture of cronyism and corporate entitlement in the organisation. A significant number of Cantabrians have been severely disadvantaged by the earthquakes, and despite having insured in good faith they now find themselves with little recourse. The Government has cynically banked on their being a minority, and the election result appears to have vindicated that strategy. In the present climate of legislated unaccountability and poor communication, the media’s watchdog role is more vital than ever.

    You’ve suggested that the EQC is “an organisation that suddenly had to do a job it was never designed for”. It’s an argument that appears to have found favour with the Government when applied to insurance companies, who have been able to weasel from honouring their full replacement policies by invoking the paper fiction of declaring red zoned properties repairable. Fortunately for all those throughout NZ who’ve paid their levies in the good faith assumption that a Government institution offered a degree of coverage for the very type of natural disaster that we’ve experienced, it’s not an across the board option for the EQC.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3291 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to HenryB,

    Didn't NBH give us a link which provided a fairly comprehensive discussion of this processs?

    Yes, he did, but it's only valid until 2005. I don't know if things have changed. My statements about how it worked here were based on that document.

    Even the Labour Party ones take 2-3 pages and are fairly convoluted.

    Yup. Which isn't one of the good things about Labour. Convoluted internal workings are an excellent way of putting up barriers to participation.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8015 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Surely the bigger source of outrage for disadvantaged Canterbury homeonwners is the low level of expertise that EQC seems to require for these pivotal roles.

    Pinning the outcome on the judgement of any person who has no relevant trade/assessment experience but who may be good at filling out forms or 'communicating' is utterly incompetent. As is letting the situation remain uncorrected - not that I'd expect better of Fieldmarshall Brownlee or his pork-fed chums.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15715 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Sacha,

    If there’s any meaningful public accountability in this country, the EQC's Ian Simpson will be required to do rather more than point an expensive consultant at his critics. Wherever contracts are awarded, be it with consultants or the likes of Verifact, potential favours are incurred, which may be called on later. Jenny Shipley, for example, hardly needs another lucrative gig such as the CERA oversight role awarded to her by Brownlee. Simply asking for transparency isn’t tantamount to an accusation of wrongdoing.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3291 posts Report Reply

  • merc, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Cue the 1000nzd a day + Shipley Review Board! Oh, sorry not their job...

    Since Dec 2006 • 2468 posts Report Reply

  • Isaac Freeman, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Perhaps there’s something of a rabble-rousing tone about Van Beynen’s article, an attempt to excite the envy of the proletariat before moving on to the next distraction.

    I didn't read it as having any particular agenda, just as a piece about an unfolding situation where all the evidence isn't in. The smoke is news, even if it's not yet clear where or how big the fire is. Nor, to strain the metaphor, whether the cause was arson, lightning strike, or children playing with matches.

    The ‘first person to have a finger pointed at them’ in Van Beynen’s piece is the teenage son of an EQC official. I don’t find the article to be an attempt to deflect blame onto him or any of the others named.

    I'd have said the finger was pointed at the mother. You're right, though, that I was vague about who was doing the pointing. I didn't mean to imply that Van Beynen is deliberately targeting anybody, just that it's too soon to jump to the conclusion that there's been deliberate corruption. Cock-ups are more common, and there's a lot of middle ground that's part cock-up and part corruption.

    Instead they’re presented as evidence of a possible culture of cronyism and corporate entitlement in the organisation.

    ...

    In the present climate of legislated unaccountability and poor communication, the media’s watchdog role is more vital than ever.

    I agree completely. I hope that this is the message everyone's getting.

    You’ve suggested that the EQC is “an organisation that suddenly had to do a job it was never designed for”.

    And I meant just that. It's the kind of mess you get in situations like this. That doesn't mean nobody's responsible, just that it's more likely the responsibility lies in a million small acts of confusion and convenience than in a few acts of calculate villainy.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 127 posts Report Reply

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