WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand’s outgoing treasury secretary failed to take responsibility for a leak of sensitive budget information last month or to meet expectations about how it should be handled, a government inquiry said on Thursday.
The inquiry’s report comes as Gabriel Makhlouf prepares to take up his new job as Ireland’s central bank governor after ending his tenure in New Zealand on Thursday.
The government ordered an investigation of the leak, which came because the budget information was available on the treasury’s website. Makhlouf claimed the website was “deliberately and systematically hacked”, but police said nothing illegal happened.
It was later discovered that the opposition National Party found the budget details using the website’s search function.
“The breach of security around the Budget documents should never have happened, under any circumstances,” State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes said in the report.
“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 did not do that,” he said.
The investigation concluded that Makhlouf’s decision to refer the matter to the police was made in good faith. Nor was there any evidence supporting allegations that Makhlouf’s public statements or actions were politically biased, Hughes said.
“It was a clumsy response to a serious issue and is not what I expect of an experienced chief executive,” he said.
Makhlouf is due to take over as head of Ireland’s central bank and to sit on the Governing Council of the European Central Bank on Sept. 1. Ireland appointed Makhlouf on May 1, shortly before he was caught up in the furore over the leak.
Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe welcomed the fact that Makhlouf was found to have acted in good faith and in a politically neutral way, a spokeswoman said.
“Mr Makhlouf has a long and distinguished record of public service over many years and this one incident must be seen in that wider context,” Donohoe said.
Earlier this month, Donohoe said Ireland must have a central bank of “utter integrity”, in response to the New Zealand controversy.
Reporting by Praveen Menon; editing by Paul Tait, Larry King