Part 1: Introduction

Inquiry into immigration matters: Public sector recruitment processes involving Mary Anne Thompson and related issues (Volume 2).

In this Part, we explain:

How our inquiry came about

In May 2008, the then Prime Minister and the then Minister of Immigration asked the Auditor-General to look into various concerns and allegations about Immigration New Zealand, a business unit within the Department of Labour.

Concerns and allegations had arisen in the public domain about:

  • the operations of Immigration New Zealand's Pacific Division and incidents involving certain senior personnel;
  • the conduct of Mary Anne Thompson, the former Deputy Secretary (Workforce)1 within the Department of Labour; and
  • how any integrity concerns had been previously handled by others, including successive chief executives of the Department of Labour, State Services Commissioners, and Ministers.

The Auditor-General agreed to carry out an inquiry, and released the terms of reference on 4 June 2008 (see the Appendix).

The terms of reference acknowledged that other agencies were carrying out related work. We did not seek to duplicate those individual processes, but to clearly and comprehensively assess what had taken place.

Since we began our inquiry, the State Services Commission (SSC) has released its report on the Department of Labour's response to concerns about immigration matters involving family members of Ms Thompson.2 The New Zealand Police also investigated Ms Thompson's claim to have a doctorate degree (PhD), and in November 2008 she was charged with three offences under the Crimes Act 1961.3 An external review commissioned by the Department of Labour into Immigration New Zealand's Pacific Division was released by the Minister of Immigration in early March 2009.4

Scope of our inquiry

The terms of reference for our inquiry stated that we would inquire into:

  • the integrity and probity of decision-making systems, processes, and practices within Immigration New Zealand, especially within its Pacific Division, including whether such practices generally comply with relevant law, policies, procedures, and public sector ethical standards;
  • particular situations that raise concerns about the integrity of senior immigration staff;
  • the processes used to recruit Ms Thompson within the public sector;
  • the awareness and management of concerns about integrity issues at Immigration New Zealand (including about Ms Thompson) by the Department of Labour, the SSC, and Ministers; and
  • any other issues that the Auditor-General considers relate to, or arise out of, the above matters.

This volume (Volume 2) covers the public sector processes used to recruit Ms Thompson and the handling of recruitment-related concerns. Volume 1 covers Immigration New Zealand's visa and permit decision-making and related issues.

How we carried out this part of our inquiry

We reviewed documentation from the recruitment processes used by the various public entities that have employed Ms Thompson.

We interviewed most of the individuals who were involved in these processes. A few we were unable to contact, which is unsurprising given that these matters go back 20 years. We have also interviewed the people who held the posts of Minister of Immigration and Associate Minister of Immigration between 2002 and 2008, the current State Services Commissioner and two former State Services Commissioners, and staff of the SSC.

We reviewed good practice material on recruitment, including that issued by the SSC.5 We also discussed good practice in recruitment with some recruitment and human resources practitioners.

As part of our usual inquiry process, we gave all the affected parties a chance to comment on a draft version of this report.

Ms Thompson's career history in the public sector

Ms Thompson began her public sector career in 1990 after working in the private sector for about a decade. In the public sector, she has worked in a range of policy and management roles. Ms Thompson became well known and highly respected in the public service. She was regarded as having skills and experience in a number of difficult fields of public policy.

Figure 1
Public sector roles held by Ms Thompson

  1990 to 1992 1992 to 1998 1998 to 2004 2004 to 2008
Permanent positions Manatū Māori

Manager, Economic Development
The Treasury

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Director, Policy Advisory Group
Department of Labour

Deputy Secretary (Workforce)
Secondments Office of the Minister of Māori Affairs Office of the Treasurer and Associate Treasurer

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

Office of Treaty Settlements

Office of the Chief Crown Negotiator for Minister in charge of Treaty Negotiations

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Acting roles     Acting Chief Executive (March-June 2004)  

In late 1989, Ms Thompson applied for, and was offered, a job at Manatū Māori, the Ministry of Māori Affairs. She started working for Manatū Māori in January 1990. While there, she was seconded to the office of the Minister of Māori Affairs.

In 1992, Ms Thompson was employed by the Treasury. During her time at the Treasury, she had a number of internal transfers, promotions, and secondments. The secondments included the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer in 1997, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) from August 1998.

In December 1998, Ms Thompson was permanently appointed to DPMC, in a second-tier management position (as Director of the Policy Advisory Group). From March 2004 to June 2004, she was Acting Chief Executive at DPMC. In April 2004, she applied for the permanent position of chief executive at DPMC, but then withdrew her application. It was during this recruitment process that an uncertainty arose about her claim to have a PhD.

On 24 May 2004, Ms Thompson was appointed to the position of Deputy Secretary (Workforce) at the Department of Labour, starting on 19 July 2004. In that role, she was effectively the head of Immigration New Zealand and reported directly to the chief executive of the Department of Labour. Ms Thompson resigned from the Department of Labour on 12 May 2008.

The uncertainty about Ms Thompson's PhD

We outline in Part 3 how an uncertainty arose about Ms Thompson's claim to have a PhD during the recruitment process in 2004 for the chief executive role at DPMC. This recruitment process was carried out on behalf of the then State Services Commissioner, Michael Wintringham.

Ms Thompson told us that, for most of the 1980s, she was enrolled at the London School of Economics (LSE), working towards a doctoral thesis. She carried out much of that study extramurally, at times while she was living in Kiribati. She finished her studies with the LSE in 1989 and submitted her thesis. However, the degree was never conferred. Ms Thompson told us that for many years she believed the degree had been conferred, and that she found out in 2004 that there was no record of it being conferred.

In May 2008, a national newspaper printed a story about Ms Thompson, alleging that preferential treatment had been given to residence applications from her relatives in Kiribati. After reading this, Mr Wintringham told the then State Services Commissioner, Dr Mark Prebble, about the uncertainty that arose in 2004 about Ms Thompson's claim to have a PhD. Mr Wintringham told us that, in the light of the questions then being raised about Ms Thompson's judgement and integrity, he decided that the assurance she had given him in 2004 that she did have a PhD should be revisited.

In May 2008, Dr Prebble alerted Christopher Blake, the current chief executive of the Department of Labour, to the question about Ms Thompson's qualifications. Ms Thompson resigned a few days later.

The then Deputy State Services Commissioner subsequently referred the matter to the Police.6

Other than the individuals discussed in this report, people we interviewed in the Department of Labour, the SSC, and Ms Thompson's former workplaces told us that they were unaware of the uncertainty about the PhD until this matter became public knowledge in May 2008.

1 In this role, Ms Thompson was the head of Immigration New Zealand from 2004 until 2008.

2 State Services Commission (2008), Investigation of the Handling by the Department of Labour of Immigration Matters Involving Family Members of the Head of the New Zealand Immigration Service, State Services Commission, Wellington.

3 The charges are under sections 228 and 229A of the Crimes Act 1961, and relate to claims Ms Thompson made in 1989, 1998, and 2004 about holding a PhD.

4 Ernst & Young (2008), Department of Labour Pacific Division Review: Final Report, Minister of Immigration, Wellington.

4 State Services Commission (June 2007), Leading Practice Selection Tools in the State Services, Wellington.

5 As Dr Prebble had been responsible, as Chief Executive of DPMC for Ms Thompson's appointment as Director of the Policy Advisory Group in 1998, he stood aside from the SSC's consideration of Mr Wintringham's disclosure.

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