Clare Curran, minister of government digital services, has resigned over an undocumented meeting with a candidate for the government’s chief technology officer role, the recruitment of which is being managed by her department.
According to the Government, in February this year, Curran met with Derek Handley at her Beehive office in her capacity as minister of government digital services to discuss his interest in the CTO role, applications for which opened in May, and directed him to register his interest with MBIE officials.
“The meeting was not recorded in the minister’s diary and neither the minister’s staff nor officials were made aware of it,” the Government said in a statement.
“The meeting was subsequently mistakenly left out of an answer to a recent Parliamentary Question for Written Answer. The meeting should have been included in the answer and the error has been corrected. Ms Curran has advised there have been no other meetings between herself and Mr Handley outside the application process.”
However Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern removed Curran from Cabinet saying: “The failure to record the meeting in her diary; inform her staff and officials; and accurately answer parliamentary questions has left the minister open to the accusation that she deliberately sought to hide the meeting.
“While this was not the minister’s intention, this is the second misjudgement and is not in keeping with my expectations, or the minister’s expectations of herself.”
She added: “Transparency is important, even more so for Hon Curran given her open government responsibilities. I have accepted the minister’s offer to resign her responsibilities relevant to this issue, which clearly she can no longer continue in”
Ardern said state services minister Chris Hipkins would take back Curran’s open government responsibilities, and research, science and innovation minister Dr Megan Woods Curran’s Government Digital Services portfolio.
Arden said Curran would have no further involvement in the CTO appointment process, which will be taken over by Hipkins who will finalise the details of the appointment and the implementation of the CTO role.
“Minister Hipkins has asked the State Services Commission to take a look at the CTO appointment process to ensure it has been robust, and that the meeting between Ms Curran and Mr Handley had no bearing on the process or outcome,” Ardern said. “The SSC will report back next week before the appointment process is concluded.
The government announced creation of the CTO role in November 2017.