19 Jun 2018

Thompson and Clark used SIS contact to seek govt contracts

From Checkpoint, 5:08 pm on 19 June 2018

The Security Intelligence Service has launched an internal investigation into concerns of biased and unprofessional dealings with controversial security firm Thompson and Clark.

The announcement of the investigation comes on the same day the State Services Commissioner widened his inquiry into the use of Thompson and Clark to cover all government agencies, with Commissioner Peter Hughes saying there is evidence of serious staff misconduct at the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Rebecca Kitteridge, Director of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service.

SIS director general Rebecca Kitteridge Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Emails from an unnamed SIS staff member to either Gavin Clark or Nick Thompson "raise questions in relation to [unprofessional] conduct and possible bias in favour of Thompson and Clark," SIS director general Rebecca Kitteridge said in response to an Official Information Act request.

"In light of this correspondence, I have asked for several matters to be looked into… These questions are the subject of an internal investigation," Ms Kitteridge said.

"I have also asked for our internal processes, policies and guidance to be reviewed to ensure that our engagement with private sector providers is professional, appropriate and even-handed."

The emails appear to show the SIS staff member helping Thompson and Clark book contracts with government agencies around their Protective Security Requirements - "the policy, protocols and guidelines that help agencies identify what they must do to protect their people, information and assets".

"Keen for PSR work if you have any leads," Thompson and Clark emailed the SIS staff member in April last year.

"The DHBs will be the next cabs off the rank, as the MoHealth chap is pushing the buttons," the SIS staff member replied, a minute later.

The SIS staff member then forwarded Thompson and Clark's contact details to his contact at the Ministry of Health.

The emails show the SIS staffer was an old friend of Thompson and Clark. They met with Gavin Clark or Nick Thompson regularly for beers and coffee, sometimes on back to back weeks.

The meetings were informal, meeting in hotel lobbies and bars, but SIS work was discussed.

"We can talk [Capability Maturity Model] and how we do the biz (sic) once the workshop outcomes have been confirmed," the SIS staffer wrote in advance of one beer catchup.

The emails also show Thompson and Clark secured its contract to develop the Department of Conservation's Protective Security Requirements after checking in with the SIS staffer.

"Hi mate is DOC a mandatory PSR organisation," a Thompson and Clark staffer asked the SIS staffer in November 2016.

The staffer then replied with a name the Thompson and Clark staffer should contact at DOC to secure its PSR contract.

Thompson and Clark also used the SIS employee to try and secure late entry to a PSR forum in 2016.

“Flick an email to [redacted] and request the late entry if possible – it may be too late… try him anyway – use some of the sob story from below, but cut away some of my prompts,” the SIS staffer wrote to a Thompson and Clark employee.

“I will suggest that he accepts the request,” they said.

In another email later that day the SIS staffer said: “If it were my gig, I’d say yes,” ending the email with a winking face: “;-)”.

State Services Minister Chris Hipkins, told Checkpoint Thompson and Clark’s relationships with government agencies “certainly looks like it has been inappropriate”.

“The cosiness of the relationship between Thompson and Clark and some parts of the public service is concerning and that is one of the things that the investigation is going to get to the bottom of," Mr Hipkins said.