14 June 2024

Acting Public Service Commissioner Heather Baggott today announced the details of an inquiry into allegations that personal information provided to government agencies was misused by third-party service providers.

The Prime Minister and the Minister for the Public Service on Monday directed the Public Service Commission to conduct the inquiry. The Public Service Act grants extensive investigative powers to the Public Service Commissioner or their delegate. This includes the legal power to require the production of any records, files, other information or require government employees to answer questions. 

Ms Baggott has appointed Michael Heron, KC, and Pania Gray, of Kororā Consulting, to lead the inquiry.

It is alleged personal information provided to government agencies as part of Census 2023, or for Covid-19 vaccination purposes, has been misused by third-party service providers during last year’s election.

Under the terms of reference(PDF, 176 KB), the inquiry will establish the facts and provide independent assessment of government agency activity in relation to the allegations.

The inquiry will consider, make findings, and report on:

  • the safeguards government agencies had in place to ensure the appropriate use of peoples’ personal information by third-party service providers, and whether those safeguards were effective. 
  • what relevant personal information was shared with the relevant third-party service providers, and what mechanism was that information shared under.
  • what concerns were raised with the government agencies prior to media reporting, and what was done in relation to those concerns.
  • whether relevant government agencies had arrangements in place to identify and manage any conflicts of interest of third-party service providers, including perceived conflicts of interest, and whether those were effective.

Agencies within scope of the inquiry are: Statistics NZ, the Ministry of Health, Health NZ, Te Puni Kōkiri, Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry of Social Development. The third-party service providers within the scope of the inquiry include the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency, Te Whānau o Waipareira Trust and Manurewa Marae Trust Board.

The full scope of the inquiry can be found here(PDF, 176 KB).

“These are very serious allegations that have been strongly denied by the relevant third-party service providers ,” Ms Baggott said.

“The allegations go to the heart of trust and confidence in New Zealand’s democratic processes and institutions. It’s important to establish the facts so New Zealanders can trust that when their personal information is collected by government agencies, it is held securely and used only for proper authorised purposes.”

The indicative reporting date for the inquiry is 16 September 2024. Ms Baggott will be making no further comment until the inquiry is finished.


Media queries: Pete Fitzjohn 021 371 829 or pete.fitzjohn@publicservice.govt.nz 


Michael Heron is a King’s Counsel and former Solicitor-General. He has extensive legal experience, including as a Crown Prosecutor and advisor to a wide range of government agencies on complex commercial and litigation issues. In 2020, Mr Heron led an investigation into the breach of sensitive personal information involving Covid-19 active cases.

Pania Gray recently completed a review for the Public Service Commission into Te Puni Kōkiri’s recruitment processes. She is a professional director and former senior public servant who led many inquiries while working at the Office of the Auditor-General. Ms Gray is managing director of Kororā Consulting, whose work includes inquiry and investigation services.