10 Jun 2024

Public Service Commission to conduct inquiry after Te Pāti Māori data allegations

5:55 pm on 10 June 2024
A Maori pin worn by Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer

(File image). Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The Public Service Commission will conduct an independent inquiry after allegations that Te Pāti Māori misused data during the 2023 election campaign.

A group of former workers at Manurewa Marae said private data from census forms was photocopied and entered into a database they believe was then used to target voters in the Tāmaki Makaurau electorate.

Te Pāti Māori MP Takutai Tarsh Kemp was the marae's chief executive before stepping down after she narrowly won the Tāmaki Makaurau seat.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has asked the Commission to investigate the allegations.

"The review will be established by the powers provided by the Public Service Act 2020.

"There will be further announcements this week on the terms of reference, the timing for the inquiry, as well as the independent reviewer who will lead the process."

The police, Stats NZ and the Privacy Commissioner were also looking into the allegations.

In a letter to the Acting Public Service Commissioner Heather Baggott, Luxon said he did not want the inquiry to "cut across" the existing investigations, but given the "seriousness" of the circumstances, it was important for facts to be established and independent oversight of the whole picture of government agency actions.

"We expect this to be an independent inquiry into the safeguards that relevant government agencies had in place to ensure the appropriate use of people's personal information by third party providers in the circumstances surrounding these allegations, and whether those safeguards worked.

"The inquiry should include an assessment of the institutional arrangements relating to the use of the personal information and whether conflicts of interest, and any perceived conflicts of interest, have been appropriately managed."

Luxon said the inquiry would cover actions taken by Statistics NZ, the Ministry of Health, Health NZ, Te Puni Kokiri, Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry of Social Development, as well as any other public service agency the Commissioner considered appropriate to include.

"These are very serious concerns," he said.

"They go to the heart of trust and confidence in our democratic processes and institutions. It is critical that New Zealanders can trust that when their personal information is given to government agencies, it is held securely and used only for proper purposes."

At a post-Cabinet media conference Luxon outlined what actions had already been taken.

  • The police have received a complaint and commenced an investigation.
  • The Privacy Commissioner has requested information and assurances related to the reported allegations.
  • Individual agencies are also taking action to establish the facts, he says.

Luxon said he had not spoken to Te Pāti Māori about the inquiry before making the announcement.

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