A week ago it emerged that Thompson and Clark, a private security and surveillance firm were using Police officers to moonlight for them and disclosed information. A week later, it has emerged that Thompson and Clark, who were – until yesterday – the Government’s private security and surveillance firm have been engaging in widespread unlawful spying and surveillance activities.
Yesterday, following major developments, the State Services Commission laid a complaint with Police about their activities. T.C.I.L. were yesterday advised that their contract to be the security and surveillance firm for the Government is being revoked.
Whilst this is welcome progress, it is just the start. T.C.I.L. have been found to have been involved in breaches of privacy law across the Government sector.
One Ministry – we will say Ministry of Energy and Resources for arguments sake – would have been plenty bad enough. So it is therefore quite shocking to find that numerous agencies right across the Government sector have been implicated in the Thompson and Clark spy racket. Public service sector leaders are alleged to have known and ignored breaches in the agencies that they were responsible for, for years.
It has already cost the job of the Southern Response Chairman Ross Butler, who offered his resignation during what I imagine was a very terse conversation with Earthquake Recovery Minister Dr Megan Woods. Mr Butler was Chairman prior to his resignation of the Government owned agency set up to help tackle insurance claims and related issues in Christchurch.
Dr Woods may have another resignation on her hands soon, as she is also Minister of Energy and Resources. Thompson and Clark have also been linked to the spying on of Green and Mana Party members and social activists because of their opposition to oil and natural gas exploration projects. This particular aspect of the scandal implicates Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges. As former Minister for Energy and Resources he pushed through the highly controversial Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land)Bill without public submissions or select committee input being allowed. It passed through Parliament 61-60 with National, A.C.T. and United Future supporting it. Numerous complaints were made to the Human Rights Commission about this legislation and it was found that the Act does indeed breach New Zealand’s human rights legislation and obligations.
Whilst Mr Bridges won’t resign, someone in the Ministry for Energy and Resources must have known about the spies and what they were up to. This is particularly notable because he is known to have had meetings with officials from numerous energy companies who expressed their concern about the activities of protesters.
It is demonstrated that in a third agency breach, this time in the Ministry of Transport, Thompson and Clark were blocked by staff who were concerned about their use of private vehicle data.
But it is not Thompson and Clark who set the environment in which the public service operate. That is the job of the State Services Commission Peter Hughes and his team. For there to be true accountability, Mr Hughes must accept full responsibility for having permitted such odious activities to go on for all of these years and step down.