Environment Ministry boss Hugh Logan is again under fire after MPs were wrongly told that a $120-an-hour communications contract awarded to Labour Party activist Clare Curran was open to other bidders.
Environment Minister Trevor Mallard told Parliament last week that three quotes were obtained for the work, but said yesterday he had been given incorrect advice and that Ms Curran was the only person approached.
Mr Logan has apologised to Mr Mallard after his staff misinformed the minister about Ms Curran's employment during a briefing on Thursday.
The meeting was held the day after Mr Logan was hauled over the coals for forcing ministry communications manager Madeleine Setchell to leave her job because her partner is National leader John Key's chief press secretary.
National has contrasted her treatment with the employment of Ms Curran, who was active in Climate Change Minister David Parker's Otago-Southland region when he suggested her for communications work.
The work came soon after she wrote a paper for the branch's annual conference on how Labour should change its language to sway public opinion at the next election.
Ms Curran was employed between May 22 and July 28, 2006 - before Mr Logan was ministry chief executive - and paid $29,400.
A report into her contract by Deputy State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie says she approached the ministry about climate change communications work in late 2005 or early 2006, but was not hired.
In early May 2006, Mr Parker suggested her name to officials during a meeting on problems in implementing a climate change communications strategy, and she was offered work soon after.
Her rates were compared with two other companies, but neither were asked to bid.
National environment spokesman Nick Smith said the report deepened his suspicions that Ms Curran's appointment was politically motivated.
He also claimed the ministry had misled Parliament's environment committee by not including Ms Curran's contract, which he said was signed on July 13, in a list of communications consultants used in the year from July 1, 2006.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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