20 Jun 2019

PM defends handling of senior staffer's conflicts of interest

8:53 am on 20 June 2019

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she's comfortable with the way her interim chief of staff's conflicts of interest were managed.

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Simon Bridges says lobbyist Gordon Jon Thompson's appointment to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's office raises some perception issues. Photo: RNZ

Questions have been raised about whether lobbyist Gordon Jon Thompson fully complied with all commitments to disclose conflicts to Ministerial Services.

Mr Thompson worked for Ms Ardern from October 2017 for roughly four months, stepping into the role, to cover an illness.

He said he took a leave of absence from his lobbying firm during this time.

But The Spinoff has reported Mr Thompson did not identify the names of his firm's clients or remain in contact with his manager to ensure he was not working on matters where his firm was also involved.

National leader Simon Bridges said it raises some perception issues.

"It does seem wrong, I mean you've got a situation where there's clear conflicts, where some people think they get access to the prime minister through him."

Mr Bridges said it's incumbent on the prime minister to clear this up.

Ms Ardern said she was not involved in the management of any conflicts of interest.

"It would not be up to me of course to know or engage with any previous, or future clients, that's simply not appropriate.

"It was only a short-term appointment and so where there may be conflicts of interest, those issues are raised directly with Ministerial Services and they give advice on how it should be handled.

"To the best of my knowledge it was dealt with according to the guidance issued by Ministerial Services," Ms Ardern said.

In a statement Mr Thompson said: "The potential conflict of interest was declared, it was managed.

"I took a leave of absence from the firm. The arrangements made reflected the short-term nature of the role."

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