21 July 2010
The New Zealand Defence Force accepts the findings of a report by the Controller and Auditor-General into housing allowances paid to its staff seconded to the United Nations between 2001 and 2008 and has already introduced changes.
The Controller and Auditor-General tabled in Parliament today a report into how four members of the Defence Force came to sign false declarations to the United Nations (UN), failing to declare the payment of housing assistance from New Zealand.
Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae says the findings of the Auditor-General are consistent with earlier findings of the Defence Force’s own internal Court of Inquiry into the matter. That is, the Auditor-General has highlighted poor personnel policy-making processes over many years.
The Auditor-General has also raised organisational issues within the headquarters – especially what she describes as a silo mentality, and she has also questioned the appropriateness of military lines of command in non-operational areas of the headquarters. The Auditor-General does warn against extrapolating her findings across the whole of the Defence Force as a result of this single investigation.
The reason the four individuals were paid an accommodation allowance by the Defence Force as well as the UN allowance, was because the Defence Force was under the mistaken impression that seconded staff to the UN would be financially disadvantaged compared to a posted member of the Defence Force to the same city. The Auditor-General has found that it was unnecessary to pay the four individuals the Defence Force accommodation assistance, as without this their level of UN remuneration would have been roughly comparable to other posted Defence Force staff.
It is however accepted by the Auditor-General that the individuals were not financially motivated and hadn’t signed a false declaration to the UN in the hope of being financially better off. These officers have already been censured, as were the two officers responsible for policy development at the time.
“As Chief of Defence Force I take all of the Auditor-General’s findings extremely seriously. I have undertaken to act upon all of the recommendations made by the Auditor-General,” says LT GEN Mateparae.
LT GEN Mateparae says the Defence Force has already gone a long way to implementing many of them, which are focused on improving the workings of the headquarters. With the help of the State Services Commission it has set about completely overhauling its Personnel policy-making processes.
“We have introduced an entirely new intent-based human resources manual which has formalised the tests any policy decision must pass. As the Auditor-General also notes, the Defence Force is strengthening the role played by our legal section in areas of compliance, risk mitigation, and policy formulation.
“In addition, the Defence Force has also embarked on a major structural reform of its personnel branch to ensure it has a personnel organisation with world-class systems and processes. For example, this will see civilian and military HR advisors working in a single HR advisory organisation, with clearer lines of accountability and improved collaboration.”
LT GEN Mateparae also noted a significant restructure of the entire Defence Force headquarters was underway as part of the Defence Transformation Programme. One of the aims of the transformation programme is for the headquarters to become more effective, by promoting greater collaboration and a whole-of-organisation mindset – which was also one of the recommendations of the Auditor-General.
With the Minister of Defence tasking those working on the Defence White Paper to also consider the Auditor General’s findings, LT GEN Mateparae says still further improvements to the headquarters are anticipated.
Lastly, LT GEN Mateparae pointed to changes to the way values education and promotion would occur across all levels of the Defence Force, saying he will be asking senior leaders to put a greater emphasises on core public sector values, which fit well with the Defence Force’s core values of courage, commitment, comradeship and integrity.
“The Defence Force is and always will be a values-based organisation. By making these changes we will be substantially improving the culture and management within the headquarters, thus ensuring that there will be no repeat of these kinds of events in the future.”
Contact: Chris Wright (04) 496 0296, (021) 487 980