Twywell contracts finish early

Parliamentary scrutiny 'not a major factor', department says

Controversial Labour Department service provider Twywell has had its contracts with the department prematurely terminated and Twywell director and chief departmental IT manager Maxine Welsh will leave at the end of this month when the contracts run out.

However, the suggestion raised in Parliament by MP Richard Worth of a conflict of interest in subsequent bids for Labour Department IT jobs by two companies associated with Welsh was “not a major consideration” in the decision to terminate the arrangements early, says department spokesman Richard Ninness.

“It would sound duplicitous if I said that was not a factor,” he says, but the chief impetus behind the move was a restructuring and plan to “build internal capability” which began mid-last year on the appointment of deputy chief executive in charge of corporate services, Brian Sage.

The contracts, for project managing development of a major application suite called WorkInfo and for facilities management of the IT facility, were originally scheduled to end on June 30 and October 31 this year respectively. At the time they were set, “we knew we would have a new deputy chief executive, but we weren’t clear what that would entail,” so the deadlines were set as long as Twywell’s services might be required, Ninness says.

In the event, it has proved possible to complete “an orderly change” from external to internal resources earlier than planned, he says.

Private sources close to the department also say it would be simplistic to see the controversy over the alleged conflict of interest as the only, or even the chief, factor in the move.

The contracts will be taken over by acting information director Colin Boswell, another recent recruit to the department and a well-known figure of the IT scene in Wellington. Boswell’s CV includes work for major consultancies, running the IT services operation of Victoria University and a stint as president of the NZ Computer Society.

Richard Worth continues to dig into the affair with a long series of Parliamentary questions directed at Labour Minister Paul Swain. One of the most recent asks about the end dates of the two Twywell contracts. Swain's reply is not yet recorded.

Last week Ninness said Labour CEO James Buwalda would attempt to schedule a meeting with Worth, possibly, some time this week. Buwalda has also "resumed dialogue with the Auditor-General about what we [the department] do next [regarding the Twywell allegations]", says Ninness.

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