Stephen Wilce inquiry finds SIS failure

STEPHEN WILCE: Elaborate and extravagant lies.
STEPHEN WILCE: Elaborate and extravagant lies.

Security Intelligence Service (SIS) staff failed to follow basic procedures when appointing a top defence official, an official inquiry has found.

Stephen Wilce bluffed his way in to the job as Chief Defence Scientist and Director of the Defence Technology Agency through a series of elaborate and sometimes extravagant lies.

He was sprung by a television sting last year, and relieved of the job, which had given him high-level security clearance.

A report by the State Services Commission into Wilce's appointment, released today, found the system for his appointment was not yet "fit for purpose".

"There were several basic lapses from expected performance," the report, by State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie said.

"We need assurance that there were not similar failings in other Top Secret vettings carried out at around the time of Mr Wilce's vetting."

Officials had not checked with their counterparts in overseas agencies to see what they knew about Wilce and they had not followed up on Wilce's failure to disclose convictions once the police check had revealed that he had convictions. Officials had also failed to act on information about Wilce after he was appointed.

"The failure by NZSIS staff to record critical information about Mr Wilce's character, and pass it through to the vetting file, at this early juncture of Mr Wilce's employment with NZDF was significant," the report said.

Prime Minister John Key said: "The State Services Commissioner has said further action needs to be taken to demonstrate confidence in the vetting system, and he will report back to me in the first half of this year."

An independent, international review of the vetting system would be carried out and there would be a check on a 5 per cent sample of the Top Secret vettings undertaken at the time Wilce was employed to make sure the mistake was a one-off.