I was asked by ‘Sara’ in another thread why I didn’t have a post up concerning the apparent blocking of the Auditor General’s access to Governments computer system. There were two main reasons for this.
The first reason is, as many readers will have noticed by now, I really haven’t been posting much in general of late. This is largely due to my new job and its commute. Also, there just really seems to have been a lack of news articles that caught my attention, and the ones that I have started in this time I just haven’t finished.
The second reason is that when I read the reports about the Auditor apparently being blocked my first thoughts were that this was more an issue of human error or incompetence rather than any devious plan on the part of Government. As the story has progressed I have found my initial impression reinforced.
I completely accept Government’s account that the Auditor’s access was blocked accidentally as a result of upgrades to the computer system. I also accept the Auditors account that she had pointed this lack of access for some two weeks and that access was only restored when she went public.
From my own experience in the civil service, mistakes happen. Some of these mistakes are of the kind that genuinely make you shake your head at the idiocy of it. Some of them are genuine oversights. This whole incident strikes me as a genuine mistake, and the failure to rectify it one of those head shaking moments of incompetence. I don’t know what exactly happened, but there is little excuse for not fixing the problem within two weeks. A day or two could have been understandable, but two weeks is pretty poor performance. The fact that it was quickly rectified the moment it became public and the proverbial fire was lit under the butt of the civil service just shows that it wasn’t an exceptionally difficult problem to fix.
I do wonder if the Auditor General had been pointing out the lack of access to civil servant functionaries or if she had taken the issue up with the Minister of Finance, Ms. Cox. In my experience Ms. Cox is one of the most approachable of Ministers and responds quickly to emails. While the problem with access should have been quickly rectified by the Auditor touching base with the relevant civil servants, the fact that it wasn’t after a few days should have been reason enough for going up the ranks, right up to the Minister, before going to the media.