Minister refuses to release details of Makhlouf report

Donohoe received review of incoming Central Bank governor from New Zealand government

Gabriel Makhlouf, the incoming governor of the Central Bank, whose term as New Zealand treasury secretary ended in controversy. Photograph: Vivek Prakash/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gabriel Makhlouf, the incoming governor of the Central Bank, whose term as New Zealand treasury secretary ended in controversy. Photograph: Vivek Prakash/Bloomberg via Getty Images

 

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has received a confidential review into the incoming governor of the Central Bank from the New Zealand government.

However the department is refusing to release details of the 18-page report.

Labour finance spokeswoman Joan Burton has called for the document to be made public by the department, claiming that the controversy surrounding the appointment “has caused real reputational issues for Ireland”.

“Anything that addresses these issues should have maximum public transparency, with full disclosure of all information relevant for the consideration,” Ms Burton said. “And I would think a report which may tell us more about his previous service in New Zealand – I think that it is very important that it is made available.”

Mr Donohoe received the Review of Incoming Central Bank Governor Gabriel Makhlouf by New Zealand’s state services commission a day before the same body published a critical investigation into the incoming governor.

Mr Makhlouf, who is due to take up his €286,790 a year role at the Central Bank on Monday, previously served as chief executive and secretary to the treasury in New Zealand.

The New Zealand State Services Commission conducted an investigation into Mr Makhlouf, following his handling of a controversy over leaked budget details in May this year.

Leaks

Mr Makhlouf initially said the leaks resulted from systematic and deliberate hacking and called in the police to investigate. However, it emerged that the budget was accessible through the search function on the department’s own website.

An investigation by the commission into the statements and actions taken by Mr Makhlouf criticised his “clumsy” handling of the leaks but found that he “acted in good faith, reasonably and in a politically neutral manner”.

The document received by Mr Donohoe form the New Zealand authorities on June 26th is marked “diplomatic”. The department has refused to release the report under the Freedom of Information Act, citing exemptions for material relating to relations with foreign governments as well as a section for information received in confidence.

The department decided the public interest would be best served by not releasing the material, which is described as: “Diplomatic communications intended to be restricted to Government Ministers where release would disclose negotiation position of the State.”

Following its investigation, the New Zealand state services commissioner, Peter Hughes, said: “The right thing to do here was to take personal responsibility for the failure irrespective of the actions of others and to do so publicly. He [Mr Makhlouf] did not do that.

Case now closed

“As the investigation found, Mr Makhlouf focused more on the actions of the searchers of the treasury website rather than his own personal responsibility as chief executive for the failure of the treasury systems.”

The commission opted not to take any action against Mr Makhlouf following the investigation and the case is now closed.

Earlier this month, Mr Makhlouf wrote to Mr Donohoe to say he fully accepted the findings of the inquiry into how he handled the controversy. Mr Makhlouf has said he will publicly address the controversy before taking up his new role.

A spokesperson for the department defended the appointment of Mr Makhlouf saying the investigation into him was “definitive” in its findings that he “all times with honesty, integrity, and in good faith, and was politically neutral throughout the matter”.

“Mr Makhlouf was the recommendation of the independent interview panel following a public call for expressions of interest, a comprehensive search using independent executive search firm Merc Partners, a rigorous shortlisting of applicants, psychometric testing of final interview candidates, and a final interview of five candidates,” he said.

“There is no reason to reconsider the appointment of Mr Makhlouf.”