Inquiry into MFAT leak

Last updated 16:49 08/05/2012
MAARTEN HOLL/Dominion Post

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A high-level probe in to the source of a Government leak has been launched as Prime Minister John Key claims the person responsible ''betrayed the basic code of conduct''.

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie today announced that former Commerce Commission chair Paula Rebstock would head an investigation in to the leak of up to three sensitive Cabinet papers last week.

The papers, leaked to Labour's foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff, related to restructuring plans at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The cabinet committee that was to discuss the paper had not even met when Goff revealed its details.

Key has indicated only about 20 people had access to the paper and expressed dismay at continued leaks seemingly emerging from the ministry.

The Cabinet paper leak was the latest in a long series of leaks related to the restructuring plan.

Key today said the Government had not asked Rennie for the investigation but supported it.

''I think the people in MFAT - the vast overwhelming bulk of them - will be very disappointed that someone has betrayed the basic code of conduct required in the state sector,'' Key said.

''At the end of the day, this is an organisation which has been known for being diplomatic - that's the heart of what they do. Leaking a Cabinet paper is not diplomatic and I think a lot of people feel very ashamed about what taken place.''

But Goff dismissed the inquiry as ''another example of wasteful spending'' over the restructuring plans.

''The real inquiry should be into [Foreign Affairs Minister] Murray McCully's handling of this whole debacle,'' Goff said.

"The Government should take a hard look at itself and ask why so many hard-working, loyal and experienced professionals are choosing to speak out. These people were told that hundreds of them would be sacked and those that were left would have their incomes slashed and no job security. What did the Government expect to happen? You can't treat people like dirt and expect loyalty in return.''

Rennie said the papers had been provided in confidence to senior officials at MFAT, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the State Services Commission and Treasury.

Rennie will confer to Rebstock the ''powers of inquiry'' mandated to him under the State Sector Act, which include calling witnesses and seizing documents.

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