State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes apologises to former diplomats Derek Leask and Nigel Fyfe

Peter Hughes has issued an "unreserved apology" to Derek Leask and Nigel Fyfe.
Fairfax NZ

Peter Hughes has issued an "unreserved apology" to Derek Leask and Nigel Fyfe.

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes has apologised to former senior diplomats Derek Leask and Nigel Fyfe after they were "unfairly" singled out in an investigation.

The apology comes after issues identified by the Ombudsman relating to the Investigation into the Possible Unauthorised Disclosure of Information Relating to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Investigator's final report.

While the report didn't name the two men they were subsequently publicly identified and were the subject of significant criticism despite evidence the leak in question originated from within the state Services Commission itself.

Following a complaint by Leask, the Ombudsman found the SSC acted unreasonably in relation to Leask and identified numerous deficiencies in the investigation process and in the publication of the final report and in the criticisms it contained of Leask.

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The Ombudsman made five recommendations including a public apology and the payment of compensation.

Hughes says the same recommendations would also be applied to Fyfe.

He "unreservedly apologised" to both men and recognised they were treated "unfairly and that this caused significant stress to both them and their families".

Hughes has apologised to them in person and a settlement has been agreed with both men, including compensation and the refund of legal expenses.

The amount will remain confidential.

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The Ombudsman's five recommendations:
- a public apology for the issues identified in the investigation and the publication of its report
- a requirement that those accessing the report are made aware of the Ombudsman's findings
- the payment of Leask's legal fees and other costs
- consultations aimed at determining appropriate compensation for the harm done to Leask's reputation
- a review of SSC guidance for any future such investigations

Hughes said the process had been very complicated, which is why it has taken so long to apologise.

"It's complicated, it's taken some time to work through".

Hughes said through the course of the investigation certain behaviours were identified that "give me cause for concern".

It's "never acceptable to leak official information," he added. "I will have zero tolerance for this sort of behaviour".

He said Dame Paula Rebstock, who led the investigation that was found to be lacking, is a person with "immense talent" and Hughes said he would still use her in the future despite the criticisms of her handling of the investigation.

Hughes decided on the amount of compensation on the advice of the Solicitor-General.

"I'm satisfied we've fully implemented the Ombudsman's recommendations" and gone some way to meeting the expectations of Leask and Fyfe, he said.

At this point it is still unknown who was responsible for the original leak.

"Leaking information is never an acceptable way to raise concerns - the ends do not justify the means," he said.

 - Stuff

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