Govt defends Rebstock report

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2014

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The Government is standing by former Commerce Commission boss Paula Rebstock as questions are raised about her handling of a leak inquiry.

A former top diplomat, Derek Leask, has released documents showing Rebstock ignored evidence from the former head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Maarten Wevers, which appears to call into question some of her findings.

Rebstock’s report into leaks from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade accused Leask and another former diplomat, Nigel Fyfe, of improperly briefing ministers and Beehive staff on restructuring at the agency.

But evidence to the inquiry by Sir Maarten stated that it was normal practice for senior diplomats to keep the Beehive in the loop on issues of national interest. The restructuring was seen in that light because of their concern about the potential impact of the proposals on the reputation of the ministry overseas.

Labour’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Maryan Street yesterday accused Rebstock of ignoring critical evidence after it emerged she disregarded Sir Maarten’s evidence and only mentioned it in passing as evidence from a ‘‘senior public servant’’.

"Paula Rebstock went out of her way in her report to ignore that evidence and impugn two senior and experienced Mfat officials who had legitimate professional concerns about the restructuring process going on within Mfat," Street said.

It undermined the ability of public servants to offer free and frank advice to government ministers. But State Services Minister Jonathan Coleman yesterday stood by the report and Rebstock.

"It’s a good report; Paula Rebstock is a person of very high integrity with a very strong reputation and the report is as it stands. It is as it is."

Leask was yesterday critical of the inquiry process and accused Ms Rebstock and the State Services Commission of a breach of natural justice.

Rebstock’s inquiry found that neither  Leask nor Fyfe leaked the sensitive Cabinet papers which ended up in a Labour MP’s hands and which initially sparked the investigation.

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