October 20 2017, updated 9:55am

Govt ignores Ombudsman's appeal for report

Last updated 12:00 09/07/2008

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The Government is seemingly ignoring the Ombudsman's request to hand over a secret report about Tihirau Shepherd's appointment as principal of Hato Paora College.

Shepherd is set to stand trial on sex charges.

Education Minister Chris Carter refused to release the report under the Official Information Act when the Manawatu Standard requested it in April.

A complaint was handed to the Ombudsman, who sent the Minister a letter no later than May 22 asking that he give the Ombudsman's office a copy of the report and the reasons for not making it public.

Six weeks on a response was not forthcoming.

So Ombudsman David McGee then wrote to Mr Carter again on Friday, telling him to address the issue as a priority.

But yesterday Mr Carter's office categorically told the Standard a response had been written and sent last week, only for the Ombudsman's office to deny any record of it being received.

When asked how that could be, Mr Carter's press secretary said he assumed it had been sent because "the minister is normally very good at getting through what's in front of him".

"But then I suppose assumption is the mother of all . . ." he said, cutting the sentence short.

He then said he would find out if a response had in fact been sent and phone back, but did not.

It remains to be established whether a response has been sent, or even written.

National Party education spokeswoman Anne Tolley said she would be stunned if a minister had ignored an Ombudsman's request.

"It's political suicide indeed if people find out. It's not a good look. Ministers are to uphold the system, not ignore it."

The report details claims made by Auckland lawyer Ashley Balls that he warned both Hato Paora and the Ministry of Education about Shepherd's suitability for the role in 2001.

Shepherd, whose real name is Elvis Dobson Shepherd, was arrested last November following a police investigation into allegations made by two Hato Paora students.

A total of nine charges were eventually laid, dating back to 1990.

 

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- Manawatu Standard

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