9 Aug 2018

Wally Haumaha: Allegations of bullying raised in Parliament

7:16 pm on 9 August 2018

Police have confirmed they did receive an allegation of bullying on a joint project with the Justice Ministry headed by Wally Haumaha.

Assistant Commissioner Wallace Haumaha.

Wally Haumaha Photo: CHRIS COAD

In Parliament today, it was claimed Mr Haumaha, who is now a deputy police commissioner, bullied three women during the project.

The Justice Ministry said it raised problems about behaviour and the management of the 2016 project directly with a high-ranking officer and expected the police to deal with it.

Police have a different version and say while they did get a complaint about bullying, it was not from an employee of any of the three agencies involved.

They say they went back to Justice and Corrections for more information but none was forthcoming, so they left it at that.

They are now urging any of the women who want to make a formal complaint to come forward.

This is just the latest twist in the inquiry into Mr Haumaha's appointment as deputy commissioner.

There's currently a government inquiry looking into the appointment process of Mr Haumaha as deputy police commissioner, in light of comments he made defending police officers accused of rape in 2004.

It's already been delayed after the original inquiry head, Pauline Kingi, stepped aside after questions were raised by the National Party about whether she had a personal conflict of interest.

Ms Kingi was found to have endorsed Mr Haumaha's skills on the professional networking platform LinkedIn.

In Parliament this afternoon, National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett wanted to know how the government would respond to the latest claims.

"Will the inquiry cover new allegations ... of intimidation by Wally Haumaha to other public servants who were working with him?"

National's deputy leader Paula Bennett.

Paula Bennett in the House. (File photo) Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

In response, senior minister Grant Robertson said any bullying of public servants was unacceptable.

"The inquiry has been set up to look into whether or not all relevant information was available in the appointment of Mr Haumaha - on the face of it it would [be covered].

"Those allegations fit with in that category of the terms of reference."

Ms Bennett had a further question to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about other departments involved.

"Will she be asking the chief executives of Corrections and Justice whether they have had reports from senior female employees that they wished not to be in the same room as Wally Haumaha?"

On behalf of Ms Ardern, Mr Robertson told the House there would be follow up with those chief executives about these new allegations.

Ms Bennett then asked whether the public could have confidence in the police leadership.

"When they either didn't know, or didn't act, on issues with Wally Haumaha working with other public servants?"

Mr Robertson said he could not comment on that, except to say the alleged behaviour took place in 2016, and that he was "not aware" of all of the information passed to department heads, or indeed ministers at the time.

Speaking outside the House, Police Minister Stuart Nash said: "I think there's a process around natural justice".

"These allegations at this stage, as far as I'm aware, there is no formal complaint of bullying that has been made, until that has been made then these are simply just that - allegations."

Ministry of Justice pulled staff from working at police headquarters

A Ministry of Justice deputy chief executive Colin Lynch said in a statement five Ministry of Justice employees - two women and three men - worked at different times at the police national headquarters in the Māori, Pacific, Ethnic Services division from October 2015 until June 2016.

They worked on a project about improving justice outcomes for Māori.

Mr Lynch said issues were raised by ministry employees about the management of the project in June 2016.

The ministry then decided its employees would work on the project from the ministry's national office.

"The issues around behaviour were raised at the highest level between the acting chief executive of the ministry and a deputy commissioner at police," Mr Lynch said.

"The ministry expected police to follow up this issue appropriately."

A Corrections Department spokesperson said the department took all allegations of bullying and harassment seriously.

It said it had no record of any complaint being made by either of its two staff seconded to work on the cross-sector project.

The project ended in mid-2017.

The Police Minister, the gym, and Wally Haumaha

Mr Nash also faced questions today about his relationship with Mr Haumaha.

Mr Nash posted a video of himself lifting weights in the parliamentary gym and captioned other MPs and a "Wally" in the post.

He was referring to Mr Haumaha, Mr Nash admitted in Parliament this afternoon.

But afterwards he said he wanted to make it clear to reporters they were not "mates" and they had never had a beer together.

The video was just a joke between a group of people who were challenging each other as to how much weight they could lift, Mr Nash said.

"Mr Haumaha goes to the gym a lot, and every now and then in meetings we joke about it."

When asked in Parliament by National's Chris Bishop whether he had confidence in Mr Haumaha as deputy commissioner, Mr Nash would only say there was an inquiry underway.

The police have yet to respond to a request for comment from RNZ.