Conflict of interest issues in PM’s office, again

There has been much talk in the media recently about recruitment issues inside the prime minister’s office.

Recently the role of chief press secretary has made the news after Mike Jaspers moved to a new role. Stuff reported on 26 March: Quote:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is looking for a new chief press secretary after just five months in office.

Current chief press secretary Mike Jaspers?is moving sideways into a more back room role as a chief strategic advisor.

There has been chatter about the move in recent days but nothing was confirmed until?a job ad appeared on?Monday morning.

The job was also advertised in print media including the Sunday Star-Times and also on LinkedIn😕 ?

The key description of the job is as follows: Quote:

Reporting to the Prime Minister?s Chief of Staff and working closely with the Prime Minister, Senior Ministers and Officials you will responsible for the active leadership, management and co-ordination of the Prime Minister?s media team while working collaboratively across the Office to ensure appropriate communications and planning. End quote.

The position reports directly to the chief of staff for the prime minister. That person is Mike Munro.

The company that advertised this job and has recruited for the position is JacksonStone & Partners. The principal consultant is Heather Church. Heather Church is also a shareholder at JacksonStone & Partners. Companies Office records show that she holds 8,983 shares in the company.

Her website profile states: Quote:

Heather has established a strong reputation through the work she has began in her own consultancy. She entered the communications industry after a career in journalism as a Radio New Zealand reporter, producer of Kim Hill?s Nine to Noon programme, and researcher for Television New Zealand. End quote.

Her profile misses out some key information, which becomes relevant to this story. It rather glosses over the fact that she is a shareholder and director of another company called Munro Church Communications Limited. The other shareholder and director is Mike Munro. The same Mike Munro who is also the prime minister’s chief of staff. The very person whom the successful candidate for this role will report to.

Mike Munro is also Heather Church’s husband. He has also previously worked for former prime minister Helen Clark. He has also worked for Wellington’s Labour-aligned mayor, Justin Lester.

A senior recruitment industry source has told Whaleoil that the sort of fee a recruitment company could expect to charge for a senior recruitment placement like this would be in the vicinity of 30% of the salary for the position. This is a senior role and the salary level would easily be over $100,000 but could be as much as $250,000. With a salary of $150,000 there would be a $45,000 commission for placing a successful candidate in this role.

So, it appears that Mike Munro is the prime minister’s chief of staff, and is the person directly superior to the person who would hold the role of chief press secretary, and the company responsible for recruiting someone for that position has a shareholder and principal consultant who is the wife of the chief of staff. That company stands to make a substantial fee for the placement of a person who will report to a shareholder’s husband.

This appears a prima facie case of a serious conflict of interest, especially considering the direct financial benefit that flows to a connected party to the transaction. This is the?second time that allegations of significant conflicts of interest have occurred within Jacinda Ardern’s office; last time it involved David Lewis and G J Thompson as documented by The Spinoff.

This is not a good look for the prime minister and nor is it a good look for Mike Munro.

Jacinda Ardern really needs to explain what is going on in her office. This is the second incidence of a conflict of interest and this one, at face value, appears far stronger a case than the previous case.

If this was John Key I imagine Labour would be calling this behaviour corrupt. At the very least I believe that this should be looked at by the Office of the Auditor-General.