Hey, Pete and your fellow directors – what are you thinking?
Yesterday I bored you with some dates and facts from the timeline of Callaghan Innovation’s botched procurement process, and the subsequent inaction of the Callaghan Innovation Board in making any attempt to put things right.
Governance is something I know a little bit about. While boards in the main seldom actually do any of the doing, they definitely set the tone for how things are done in an organisation. To the Chair, Pete Hodgson, and the rest of the Callaghan Board, you need to know that the buck stops here, with you!
While you may not have actually caused the hiring of a conflicted investigator, or the leaking of the reports, or the whitewash that was the EY review, you most certainly are demonstrating, by your silence and inaction, that you condone all of these things. That is not okay.
To what extent have you independently checked the facts of the case and read some of the commentary in social and other media? Or have you relied mostly on management to tell you that all is well? Nothing to see here!
And what have you told your Minister about this whole saga?
Callaghan Innovation has so much potential. An organisation populated by so many talented and motivated people, trying to support innovation in New Zealand. As directors, you have a duty of care to the organisation, to uphold and build up its reputation, to position it to attract the best talent internally, and the best partnerships externally.
In fact, your stated vision is to be “the place where talent wants to be”.
Your behaviour should, and I’m sure is, causing people and organisations to reconsider whether they wish to work for you, or partner with you. What right-minded organisation would put themselves at risk of being ‘hung out’ on the public gallows should your next RFP due diligence process uncover something about them, to which you give them no proper right of reply? Information that you allowed to spread, through deliberate sharing and subsequent leakage, in direct contravention of the confidentiality promise in the tender documentation.
What director in their right mind would consider applying for a position at your board table?
In fact, back in February this year, I did exactly that. After several prompts from people I respect, I applied for an advertised position on the Callaghan Innovation Board – a position which I note has still not been filled. In fact, earlier this month, I received the by now regular update email noting that there was still no selected a short list for the position.
In my application, I noted that:
“As an experienced board director who is fully immersed in the early stage, deep-tech and angel investment ecosystem, I am excited by the opportunity to join a board charged with leveraging Kiwi innovation to create a real impact for New Zealand – our economy, our environment and our society.”
I was genuinely excited at the opportunity, though I was totally realistic that I was unlikely to get the appointment. However, following the behaviour, and particularly the apparent inaction of this Board in the face of the Manaaki situation, I had to rethink. Sadly, I withdrew my application, noting (below) that the reputation risk of joining the Callaghan Innovation board is simply too great!
So, my question for the Callaghan directors is this – while I may not have been your preferred candidate, might there be others who now feel the same way?
In a market where talent is looking to work for organisations that do good, and are good on the inside… how important do you think Callaghan’s reputation is? And is it perhaps worth rethinking your inaction.
You are the only ones who can fix this.
Admit that the investigator was conflicted.
State unequivocally that the due diligence reports, commissioned under the confidentiality of a government procurement process, should never have been shared around other organisations by your then CEO.
Make it clear that you are upset and angry (are you?) at the way the reports have been leaked to all and sundry, including social media influencers and the press.
Clarify that the EY review was not a review of the due diligence findings, nor of the conflicts of interest – but simply a review of the mechanics of the investigative process.
Officially withdraw the due diligence reports.
And above all, tell us whether you really want these documents to be used to drive Manaaki out of business, and to destroy the reputations of its founders. Because if that is what you actually want, you’re doing a great job of achieving your goals.
So tell us, Mr Chair and your fellow directors, what are you REALLY thinking?