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The ‘wet bus ticket’ punishment dished out by the State Services Commissioner to Department of Building and Housing Chief Executive Katrina Bach sets a dangerous precedent for what is acceptable behaviour from a senior public servant, says Labour’s Acting State Services Spokesperson Grant Robertson.
"Iain Rennie's response to what the investigation described as inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour seems weak. Just issuing a warning and the possibility of withholding some bonus payment risks sending the message that the behaviour of Ms Bach described in his report today is not being taken seriously.
"Mr Rennie has said that Ms Bach 's actions were inappropriate and a breach of the Department’s code of conduct. If this was a junior staff member it would be bad enough but this is a Chief Executive. There is a power relationship here that means this should be taken very seriously indeed.
"It's clear the Commissioner realised this was serious as he says in his report that he met with Ms Bach a number of times to discuss the situation. However, I am sure the outcome will be regarded as weak by many staff at the Department.
"When they show up to work on Monday Ms Bach will still be the Chief Executive, despite the findings of this investigation. I imagine many of them will be concerned about this.
“The State Services Minister must also be concerned at the length of time this report has taken. Mr Rennie received a report from the independent investigator Karen Sewell in November 2011 but it has taken more than four months to surface. Why was that?
“Meanwhile, issues of concern are continuing to arise at the Department. Just this week it was revealed that four senior managers from the Department approached the Commissioner with concerns. This is clearly a Department with a number of serious issues.
“The Minister must get assurances from the Commissioner that the Department is a safe working environment and that the issues raised by the managers are being dealt with.
“He also needs to ask whether the standards of acceptable conduct by Chief Executives has been upheld,” said Grant Robertson.