State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie today released his findings in an employment matter relating to Ms Katrina Bach, Chief Executive of the Department of Building and Housing.

“I am satisfied that the independent investigation by a lawyer, the independent decision-making undertaken by another Public Service chief executive, and the subsequent discussions between myself and the Chief Executive have enabled the issues in this matter to be fairly and thoroughly canvassed.”

Mr Rennie said that, “Ms Bach is a long-serving public servant who has demonstrated a high level of energy and commitment to delivery in all her roles throughout her career. For example, she and her department have responded with urgency and vigour to the challenges of the Christchurch earthquakes. I have taken into account the very significant workload pressures that the Department and Ms Bach, in particular, were under at the time of the incidents under review, including dealing with a large number of issues arising during the National Emergency following the 22 February earthquake. I have also considered the personal circumstances of the Chief Executive at the time of the incidents. It is clear to me that this context is an important consideration in viewing Ms Bach’s actions.

“While having due regard to the situation faced by the Chief Executive, I have concluded that the Chief Executive breached the Department’s Code of Conduct.

“I have also found that the Department failed to deal adequately with the matter once it was bought to the attention of relevant staff. I understand the Department has subsequently reviewed its policies and practices for handling staff complaints. The Commission will work with the Department to assure itself of the improvements that the Department has made to its policies and practices.

“Ms Bach has received a warning and I have advised her that there would be a monetary consequence for her through the operation of the annual performance management system.

“The Chief Executive acknowledges that she acted inappropriately at the time and accepts her behaviour did not meet the expectations of a Public Service employer.

 “I am releasing a summary of events relating to this matter. This is unusual in the case of an employment matter, but there has been public comment over a number of months. Given the resulting public interest, I am seeking to provide an appropriate degree of transparency around this matter to give confidence that allegations of inappropriate workplace conduct in the Public Service are fairly and thoroughly investigated and that there is an appropriate accountability for lapses from the expected standards of behaviour.

“This process has taken longer than I would have wished.  It was necessary to wait for completion of the investigation into the staff member’s personal grievance before entering an employment process with Ms Bach. It was important for me to follow what I considered to be a fair process and to thoroughly examine all of the matters covered during my discussions with Ms Bach.”

ENDS

The State Services Commissioner’s findings are attached at the top of this page under 'Related Files'..  

Media Contact: Anna Hughes, Acting Communications Director, State Services Commission. Phone 04 495 6630, mobile 027 28 28 827 or email anna.hughes@publicservice.govt.nz .

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