MP applied for job a month after closing date

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 08:24 29/05/2013

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Former National MP Jackie Blue formally submitted her interest in a top government job more than a month after the closing date, documents show.

Her appointment as Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner came under scrutiny in Parliament yesterday.

Papers issued to Labour's deputy leader, Grant Robertson, show a letter of application from Blue is dated November 11 last year. A Justice Ministry advertisement for the job sought applications by October 13.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said Blue first approached her in September about the job. "I received an informal expression of interest from Dr Jackie Blue on 20 September, 2012," she said. "Dr Blue's formal expression of interest was sent by me to the ministry on 11 November, 2012."

However, Robertson questioned why there was no written record of this.

"She came to see me with her CV. Actually, it is very difficult for me to be able to have a written piece of paper to say 'Here she is with me'," Collins explained.

Robertson also obtained emails from Justice Secretary Andrew Bridgman which showed that in January Collins sought to confirm "both that Dr Blue is eligible . . . and that a fair, transparent and robust appointment process is followed, so that if Dr Blue were the successful candidate . . . no issues would arise as to the propriety of that appointment".

The documents also show that in a briefing dated November 1, the Justice Ministry identified eight candidates. The paper recommended Collins indicate which candidates she wanted to have interviewed. Collins did not sign the paper.

A second briefing paper, prepared the following month, again listed eight candidates - Blue was added and another person had dropped out. Collins agreed to short-listing four of those candidates, one of whom was Blue.

Robertson said: "My concern with this process is that all the applicants were treated fairly, and they certainly weren't all treated the same. Jackie Blue was treated differently."

He is also criticising the Government for refusing to reveal the identity of a member of the interview panel.

It is understood to be the chief executive of New Zealand Post, Brian Roche. The other panellists were Deputy State Services Commissioner Helen Quilter and Mr Bridgman.

"It's not a transparent process if the public cannot see who one of the interview panel members was," Robertson said. "The minister should have been even more cognisant of that, given the appointment ended up being a fellow National Party MP."

Blue announced her resignation from Parliament in April in order to take up the job. As it is unusual for a sitting MP to quit mid-term, it sparked accusations of cronyism.

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Collins stressed yesterday that the appointment was made by the governor-general under advice from the minister.

- Stuff

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