#StandWithManaaki – What were they thinking? Part 1

Hey Vic, what were you thinking?

The more I delve into the campaign to discredit Manaaki, and destroy the reputation of its founders, the more astonished I become.  Much of the activity appears to be enabled and exacerbated by explicit Callaghan Innovation actions and inactions.

My current bemusement centres on the Callaghan Innovation Board, and why they are apparently choosing to double down on the “we did nothing wrong” stance of past and present CEOs, when there are so many things that seem, well, just not right.

Today let’s focus on the role of past CEO Victoria Crone, and what’s come out (in media interviews, and in OIA information releases) about her role or influence in the appointment and direction of the due diligence investigator, John Borland and the work that he did.

OIA releases show that she was contacted by a friend who suggested that Manaaki be investigated – nothing wrong with that, assuming his motives were pure.  He offered to connect her to an investigator (Borland) who had prior knowledge of the claimed dodgy dealings.  The friend suggested that Vic pass Borland’s name onto her procurement team.  This conversation started in December, 2021 – before the Callaghan tender process had even begun – with the recommendation reiterated in February, 2022.

Several months later, Borland was appointed to conduct due diligence on Manaaki and others shortlisted for a Callaghan tender.  He produced his initial report in just 2 days after signing his contract of engagement. An impossibly tight timeframe to investigate and report on all tenderers.  The press reports that he had been hired a number of months earlier, by a third party to investigate Manaaki.   A clear conflict.

Borland would have been obligated to disclose conflicts of interest.  Did Borland tell Callaghan that he knew the parties involved, and the details of their dispute?  And if so, what did Callaghan do about it – did they consider using an independent investigator?  Did Callaghan only become aware of the conflict at a wider level when it was reported in the press?  Did Callaghan at that stage seek an independent view of the alleged misdeeds? 

The fact pattern suggests that the Callaghan CEO should have known of the conflict from the beginning.  Did she declare a conflict of interest to her Board, in recommending a friend of a friend for the investigator role?  Did she tell them he had investigated Manaaki before?  If not, very poor practice – particularly for a government organisation.  Or did her friend not disclose to her that Borland had been investigating Manaaki already?

Either way, it then appears (again via OIA releases) that Borland was explicitly instructed by Callaghan Innovation that he should NOT interview Manaaki to hear their side of the story.  It may be that Borland at that point was trying to do the right thing –– but that was not to be.

So on the face of it we have an investigator, recommended by a friend of the CEO, hired without apparent proper process, with undeclared prior knowledge of the matters he was hired to investigate, and who was explicitly instructed not to talk to the accused parties? 

How can this be okay?
We continue to see swirls of fact, innuendo and fabrication.  People’s reputations and livelihoods are being destroyed.  The ecosystem is being deprived of players who have made a positive difference and want to continue to do so.

How can the Board of Callaghan Innovation be apparently unwilling to do the right thing? Commission a truly independent report.  Or withdraw the current reports and hey, perhaps even issue an apology.

What were, and are, these people thinking?  Or, one has to ask, are they thinking at all?

And what role does MBIE and the Minister have in all of this?


One thought on “#StandWithManaaki – What were they thinking? Part 1

  1. Pingback: #StandWithManaaki – What were they thinking? Part 2 | rugbymother

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