Labour's home to Dr Cock-up
This is a tale of two chicks.
They both happen to have doctorates, been placed in charge of putting practical matters right by this Labour government after major policy and preventive failure, have done a monumentally incompetent job, and both been quietly moved sideways after achieving next to nothing and squandering millions.
In both cases Government Ministers refused to replace them despite almost universal condemnation of their "work" until they decided it was time to shuffle off to another bureaucratic position. In all the abstract mutterings about policies, frameworks and procedures no one seems to be apportioning blame squarely on the people responsible for these quite blatant cases of reckless incompetence and gross mismanagement. Well, I'm sick of this overly polite bullshit where no one is held to account. The heads of these organisations are responsible - they make the decisions and advise their ministers. It's time to name names:
COCK-UP No.1: Dr Lisa Ferguson/Leaky homes
COST: $52m to date
INCOMPETENCE: Nov.2002 to resignation July 2005 only resolved 344 out of 3,300 claims whilst staff partied and owners fumed.
As head of the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service (WHRS) you think she would be trying to assuage angry home-owners; but MP Nick Smith has brought to our attention yesterday that she, instead, thought she was hosting party girl idol for her fellow bureaucrats:
WHRS "had a ‘Sound of Music’ theme party in Wellington for its 40 staff on the evening of Thursday June 30. The WHRS paid for all food and alcohol, and funded airfares and accommodation for Auckland staff. A fortnight earlier, on Friday June 17, a dozen Wellington staff flew to join Auckland staff for a ‘Pacific Islands’ team building extravaganza at the Stanford Plaza Hotel, involving kava drinking and dancing girls. Last December, the WHRS held a ‘Cowboys and Indians’ theme party in which all Auckland staff were flown to Wellington at taxpayer expense. Food and beverages were again paid for by the WHRS. Earlier last year, an ‘Aeroplane’ theme party was held on similar terms."
How did the damp owners greet her resignation:
John Gray, who represented seven Ponsonby Gardens townhouse owners awarded $700,000 in March after a weathertight service adjudication, was pleased Dr Ferguson was gone. He said she was dismissive of claimants.
Former service adjudicator David Gatley, who resigned last year in protest at the way the service was failing to help homeowners, said Dr Ferguson was "completely out of her depth and knowledge" as head of the service. He believed other senior staff connected with the service should also resign."
According to TVNZ's Sunday programme report she had the nerve to say:
"I think we give value for money for what we actually deliver, which is, an alternative dispute resolution service."
And the boggle-eyed, moron Internal Affairs Minister, George Hawkins - the most shambolic of all ministers - says:
"Many people think that we as a government have put out our hand to help these people and these people are getting the solutions."
The solution? Throw money at a bureaucracy that does squat!? What sort of a solution is that? - solving unemployment in Wellington!? Seeing as how he is also the Minister of local government - who let this crisis develop unchecked - you start to see how chronically and endemically useless our State officials really are. And this is all after the experience of case No. 2:
COCK-UP No.2: Dr Ruth Frampton/Painted Apple Moth
COST: $50m to date, $50m over next 2 years
INCOMPETENCE: May 1999 to resignation in May 2002 let moth spread from 1kmsq that would have cost a few million to half of Western Auckland costing $100m and aerial spraying tens of thousands of people.
As the MAF official in charge of the Painted Apple Moth eradication programme she botched from the very start as she focussed on monitoring and research but didn't actually bother about the eradication bit, treating the whole thing as an academic-type lab experiment. In other countries people who make mistakes this big are charged with economic sabotage. In NZ they just get to quit whenever they want without being pushed and recieve no penalties at all.
From the Auditor-General's report 6.122
"Of the 33 recommendations made in the independent review of the response to the painted apple moth, the only recommendation not to have been accepted and acted upon by MAF was to develop a pest management strategy for the moth."
In other words they had no plan, got a bollocking for having no plan (instead continuing to "monitor" the moth as it went completely out of control) and then came back and still had no plan! The Herald article of 24/12/2002said about Auditor-General's report (dumped, you will note, just before Christmas so no one would notice):
"The report found there were "flaws and errors of judgment" by senior MAF staff in response to the painted apple moth incursion.
* There were "poor working relationships" between the senior MAF official in charge of the operation and key people in the forestry industry she was charged with protecting.
* It was "not acceptable" that minutes of key meetings in the early stages of the moth incursion were not kept, the report says.
* An operational plan on how MAF would deal with the pest was finally produced after the eradication attempt had been going for two years.[!!!]...
MAF came under fire for the botched painted apple moth campaign, and criticism fell mainly on its former Director of Forest Biosecurity, Dr Ruth Frampton...
The Greens at the time (May 2002) noted:
“Last year the MAF appointed Community Advisory Group called for Dr Frampton to resign, saying the Painted Apple Moth incursion and attempts to control it were a fiasco.
“Recent developments which have culminated in Dr Frampton’s resignation today further support this view and the people of Auckland deserve a full explanation of what is going on. "
A TVNZ report of Jan 2002 stated the extent of the madness clearly:
""They've caught moths all over the city from Greenlane to Pakuranga to Waitakere, what's the use of spraying this area when when they are simply going to infest from the outside?" says Hana Blackmore of the Community Advisory Group.
However, MAF says traps and ground spraying have those areas under control, but the bushes of west Auckland are a different story, and the moth can only be targeted by air.
"If it doesn't work, other options may need to be examined," says Dr Ruth Frampton of MAF.
"Regardless, if blanket aerial spraying was one of those options - and it has always been an option - then we would have to go back to the government to get their support and funding for that."
Too little too late, lady. Let's look at what she said when this whole $100m waste was only goiung to cost a few million ( From a MAF media release with Frampton's name at the bottom of it dated 19 May 1999
"Decisions about on whether or not to try to eradicate unwanted pests are based on an assessment of the probability of success," she said. "The first step in assessing this is to carry out what is known as a delimiting survey to establish the extent of spread of the pest."
In the case of the painted apple moth, the survey is almost complete, and results indicate that it is confined to a handful of properties clustered together in an industrial area, with another site about 300 metres away. The total area involved in Glendene - including the outlying site - is less than one square kilometre."
"Delimiting survey" - that never ended! Surveyed it as it spread over the city. Eradication yet? No, no. More surveys... And how did Labour try to disguise this unnecessary catastrophy (from Labour MP David Cunliffe's breezy, congratulatory, May 2002 statement
"It is important to note that Dr Frampton had a difficult and thankless task and gave it her best effort. We wish her well as she moves to take up a more technical role elsewhere in MAF...
I wish to reassure constituents that no decision has been made yet on the future of the project. A great deal of analysis is going into the draft cabinet paper."
"Wish her," fucking "well"? She's cost the country 1/10th of a billion dollars, and you wish her well!!!? Fucking hell, I hate to think what you'd have to do to get a condemnation - losing $5 billion? $10 billion? What about a mild rebuke - $20 billion? And as for "analysis" - what about this as an analysis: don't use research academics to do pest control. That simple enough? Recognise a problem when it occurs and do something about it. That simple enough? The latest report (Herald 13/06/2005) is grim reading:
"Dr Cullen also revealed that the cost so far of the Government's war against the painted apple moth in West Auckland is almost as much as if the moth had been left to its own devices.
"In the case of the painted apple moth, the programme is now approaching the bottom-end of the estimated cost of simply allowing the moth to spread," he said.
When the decision was made last year to launch an all-out aerial attack on the moth, budgeted at $90 million over three years, Maf said the pest could cause between $58 million and $356 million in damage over 20 years.
The estimated cost so far of the current eradication programme is $39 million. That is on top of last year's campaign, which cost between $11 and $13 million."