Government to pay Derek Handley $100,000 plus expenses after offering him the role of Chief Technology Officer and then changing its mind

New Minister for Government Digital Services Megan Woods says Derek Handley will receive $100,000 after being offered the role of Chief Technology Office even though the Government has decided to halt his appointment.

Woods, who replaced Clare Curren in the role last month, says Handley was offered the role and the Government is honouring its agreement with him. However the Government has decided to "reconsider its approach to the digital transformation for New Zealand." Nonetheless Handley will receive $100,000, being three months of the one year contract for services offered to him, plus $7500 for any set-up expenses occurred.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Handley is chief innovation officer at Human Ventures Co in New York. He has posted a statement to LinkedIn, which is copied in below, saying he was offered the role a month ago, is "deeply disappointed" and returned to Auckland last weekend. Handley says he won't accept the settlement money personally and will donate it to "a fund that supports ideas, programs and grants that seek to tackle this societal issue in creative ways."

Curren resigned as a Minister last week under pressure after failing to declare a meeting with Handley.

National Party State Services spokesman Nick Smith says taxpayers are "being stung" at least $100,000 because of the Government’s incompetent handling of the Chief Technology Officer appointment.

“The process around appointing a Chief Technology Officer has been a shambles from the beginning. It involved secret meetings and emails, the resignation of Minister Clare Curran and now we’re paying Derek Handley around $100,000 for a job he never even started," says Smith.

“The Government must now come clean with the hidden emails from Clare Curran and the Prime Minister so we know the full story of how badly this was handled. The CTO is the flagship of the Government’s IT policy and was budgeted to cost the taxpayer over $500,000 per year. Now if it still goes ahead we can add a pay out of over $100,000 because of the Government’s incompetence."   

“The Government should apologise to taxpayers for wasting their money and Mr Handley for wasting his time. He’s right to have criticised the process for lacking in transparency," adds Smith.

ACT leader David Seymour also put the boot in.

"The Government has shown its utter contempt for taxpayer money by botching the Chief Technology Officer hiring process and paying Derek Handley out," says Seymour.

"If asked, the average New Zealander would not be able to explain what the Government Digital Services Minister or the Chief Technology Officer do. How do they improve the lives of New Zealanders? If that very simple question cannot be answered, those positions must be abolished at the money returned to its rightful owner." 

"We have a Minister we don’t need creating a quango we really don’t need. Is it any wonder we can’t cut taxes for hardworking Kiwis when our Government is simply burning their money?" Seymour says.

Here's Woods' full statement.

The Government has stopped the process of appointing a Chief Technology Officer (CTO), as it reconsiders its approach to the digital transformation for New Zealand.

Minister for Government Digital Services, Megan Woods, today announced the decision as the Government rethinks the objectives of the CTO role. 

“Today we’ve put a full stop on this process.

“What’s clear is that we need to step back and have a good look at the role and see how it fits in with the other work being done in the digital transformation space.

“Derek Handley was offered the role and we are honouring the agreement we had with him. This decision in no way reflects on him as a candidate and the State Services Commission review shows that the process was suitably robust. Derek showed energy and passion for the development of a digital strategy for New Zealand.

“However as the new Minister I have asked officials to review the CTO role and provide advice on the best ways to drive a forward-looking digital agenda for New Zealand.

“What we know is that the CTO role in its current form has significant overlaps with the Research, Science and Innovation portfolio and the Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media portfolio, as well as other roles like the Government Chief Digital Officer. 

“We want to make sure that, whatever approach we take to achieve digital transformation in New Zealand, we get it right, and aligns with other work the Government is doing.”

ENDS

·The SSC review of the CTO role can be found here: http://www.ssc.govt.nz/proactive-releases

·Derek Handley will receive NZ$100,000 (three months of the one year contract for services offered to him) and NZ$7500 for any set-up expenses occurred.

And here's Handley's statement.

One month ago I was offered and accepted the position as the first Chief Technology Officer for New Zealand. I felt deeply grateful and incredibly privileged for this important responsibility to help shape the future of our country. I have for many years repeated that we are in need of a clearer vision and roadmap as to how we will navigate the technological transformations and opportunities ahead, many of which will be brought upon us from outside of New Zealand’s borders. 

Earlier this week I was deeply disappointed to learn that the Government will no longer follow through with their commitment and will not be making that appointment at this time. However, given the unnecessary and sustained lack of transparency around the process and building pressure to rethink the approach, their decision to stop the process is understandable. 

Nonetheless I again made it clear this week that I was and remain fully committed to taking up the role under that pressure and in the face of those who were not supportive because of how much I believe in the challenge and opportunity for our country that it represents. The last few weeks have been a distressing time for my family and I who returned to Auckland last weekend in time to take up this position from having lived for over ten years in New York. 

Although there has been much debate about the purpose of the role, it was and remains very clear to me that the primary purpose was to “build an inclusive digital strategy for NZ from a 'whole of society’ perspective and to have a broad mandate to serve as a challenge to, and advisor for, the New Zealand Government,” as outlined in the job description and repeatedly stated by the Government.

Admittedly, although I am not steeped in the local IT community and don’t personally know those critical of this process, my broad background that I believed may have been of unique service to New Zealand as the CTO, includes: building, investing in and advising dozens of innovative start-up technology companies around the world that disrupt the status quo; co-founding The B Team, a global non-profit that mapped a wide global landscape of issues and efforts and then charted a unique strategic path to transforming the way we conduct business for the benefit of a sustainable and inclusive society; my roles as a thought partner on the future of work and careers at leading universities Wharton, University of Pennsylvania and AUT as well as my corporate strategy experience here in New Zealand with Sky Television and Air New Zealand where I have been deployed to challenge thinking and creativity. 

I believed this experience spanning new industries, new-economy companies, investing, technology, sustainability, social innovation, large scale corporations, education, vision, consensus building and strategy across New Zealand and globally may have been of service to New Zealand as the CTO. That, combined with a deep desire to return home to New Zealand to serve our country in some capacity, is why I applied for the role. I enjoyed the challenge of the recruitment process itself, which was one of the most robust, demanding and extensive experiences I have undergone and I am thankful for the work of the many people involved who will also be disappointed at this outcome. 

As the Government has now terminated my contract I have been offered a settlement payment as per the contract. The amount equates to three months pay plus reimbursement of my costs. 

The CTO role was also tasked with tackling the issue of “digital inequality” where disenfranchised New Zealanders are being disadvantaged due to lack of digital capability or access. My family and I have decided not to accept the settlement money personally and instead donate the net proceeds towards a fund that supports ideas, programs and grants that seek to tackle this societal issue in creative ways. I welcome collaboration from all communities on how we may do that.  

I am grateful for what I have learned through this experience and appreciate all the voices that care passionately about our future, including those critical of my candidacy as CTO. 

It is only through truly understanding our unique differences and what each of us represent and can bring to the table that we can create better, newer paths forward for our nation. There is considerable opportunity for us as New Zealanders to improve how we go about doing that for each other for a kinder, more inclusive, transparent and open-minded country.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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28 Comments

Given her lack of transparency on this matter, and her failure to follow a proper process, is there any reason why the cost should not be met by Clare Curren personally?

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Labours inexperience is showing sooner then expected, or was it expected sooner?

Taxcinda has this "Gutted Fish Expression" when annoyed by the media for asking good questions, its showing its face more often these days.

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Not sure you can put it down just to inexperience.
There was a fair bit of stupidity and some deviousness thrown into the mix.

Deviousness requires some intellect which is lacking in this particular case.

As for Handley he’s been shafted by the stupidity and deserves every cent.

and you think National was any better? I seem to recall National being so clueless going back years if not decades ie the likes of Maurice Williamson etc being utterly incompetent IT wise and no one shines since.

So is this you agreeing that the Labour party is no better than National? Took just a year from supporters seeing the incumbents as the better government to as good (or bad) as National.
Unelectable by next election I presume at this pace?

Why does it even matter? So much "Petty Politics" on this website. "My team is the best, yours sucks" trading blows and generally hating on complete strangers because they voted for a different political party.

"Yeah, but remember when National did this?"
"Oh but Labour did that first" .
"Labour voters are going to regret voting this COL in, mark my words".

Read my comment again, mate. That's exactly what it meant, maybe was a bit to sarcastic for readers to understand the tone. Steven tried to justify a bad move by the government with similar mistakes from the opposition during their time in power.
We should be cheering and booing politicians on every move as non-partisans, not picking sides and sticking to it. That allows the bad apples in the Parliament to believe they can get away with everything as their hardcore supporters unconditionally have their backs.

Ah yeah I missed the sarcasm, my bad! *Click and drag my comment up 1 tier*.

my thoughts exactly

when its your own money on the line, personal responsibility comes to the fore real fast

Pure logic, she used her personal email yes?

Thats a bit hard, maybe he had to clear his Calendar....

I'd accept the job and not do it for, say, $10k? A bargain?

Man he got ripped off...

Speiring got $8M (or pro-rata $2M for same period) for losing $196M.....oh worship the Corporate Gods and remember "Business knows all......."'

I believe Winston is trying his best to control this rabble but there’s only one of him and he can’t be across everything these Labour clowns do.

Does this guy have a few enemies ? Work went on behind the scenes to derail his appointment. Then the headlines make him out to be the bad guy. Money for Nothing etc.. But the guy is donating the payout to charity. A lot of people would just keep it. No matter how rich they were already. Shows class in my opinion. Maybe too much class to have his nose in the trough in the first place.

He certainly doesn't seem to be popular in the tech world, or at least not respected for his technical knowledge.

https://thespinoff.co.nz/business/29-08-2018/nz-tech-is-losing-it-over-t...

I have no problem with Handley. But a few 'civil servants' need to be dragged out into the yard and kicked off down the road.
The ways they will spend our money is just nuts. $100K. I think we could sack 10,000 to 20,000 Wellington types and nobody would notice the difference in work output.

Wrong. You would notice an improvement in departmental efficiency by cutting out the seat-warmers creating all the red tape.

If we escape blockchain mania it will be $100k well spent.

Don't know.much about Mr Handley but there has been plenty of talk on other sites about his track record with other companies.

$100K is nothing!
If you are a switched on IT guru, you can earn that much is a month or two as an IT Contractor in Wellington. most likely filling out forms for Cloud Strategy

I have seen that too. Those who make that kind of moolah in Wellington aren't the Stanford or MIT educated types. Most of them are ex-accountants with on-the-job or bootcamp training.
That could be the reason this job has gone unfilled for so long, most tech gurus would rather make much more than that as contractors or consultants.

regardless of the niceties of what counts and what doesn’t on a grand scale $100K blown is $100K gone and it sets a poor example however you look at it. But it is rather rich for the opposition to bleat about it as their nine years in government would not bear close scrutiny in terms of wastage of public money either.

Victims of their own stupid labour laws .......... they should be able to terminate this either within 90 days or as the position is disestablished

Clearly things were well advanced if Handley was physically on his way here. You don't get people to that stage without a great deal of interaction. Especially not heavy hitters like this guy. From a lifetime of experience at senior level in the corporate world and having been closely involved in a good number of high level recruitments, I am convinced there would have been numerous emails, meetings etc. I doubt Curren has disclosed all the details that she was required to.

And how much did her boss know about such meetings, communications etc ? Why were Ardern's minders not wising her up that the minister of dodgy meetings was doing another Hirschfeld stunt? Sloppy admin or is it a more worrying scenario that the coalition administration is so lacking in smarts that they didn't twig to the significance ?

Jacinda needs to answer a lot of questions about this appointment, how much was she involved/ did she know, did she sign off on it. Handley was clearly the wrong guy, his two previous business's he sold don't exist anymore and were more based around google marketing than anything he 'invented'. I suspect Jacinda has gone to ground cause she completely blew this as well. Been a tough couple of weeks but only going to get worse in my opinion, the public, the media, the commentators are noticing traces of blood in the water.

This was poor judgement pure and simple. The minister concerned appeared to be out of her depth in terms of legality around this appointment.
Speaking of payouts - this one shocked me the most given the spat between Hekia Parata and Lesley Longstone. She was paid more than the prime minister at the time!
https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/129678/former-education-boss-paid-$425,000