Friday, March 31, 2017

Wilful abuse of process by the Ministry of Social Development:

A recent Minute issued by the Social Security Appeals Authority is scathing in its criticism of the Ministry of Social Development.  In fact, it is so scathing that it is hard to imagine a more damning indictment of a government department.

In addition to the recent reported criticisms regarding the numerous breaches of privacy of their clients, a recent Minute from the Social Security Appeals Authority shows that the Ministry has recently been severely criticised by the SSAA regarding its habit of using fake names for its Benefit Review Committee members since at least 2015.

The Minute from the Authority further castigates the Ministry for a "memo" which the Ministry sent "In confidence" to the Authority regarding current proceedings.  Such memorandum are required to be sent to all the parties, in the interests of open justice.  The Authority has demanded that a copy of the memo be provided to the plaintiff and a copy of the Minute be served on the Chief Executive personally.

Likewise, the principles of open and natural justice require judges to be real people and use real names, and the idea of secret court processes and secret judges is entirely repugnant, and demonstrates a damning lack of integrity, and most concerning arrogance by the Ministry in this blatant abuse of process. 

The Social Security Appeals authority has described it as an abuse of process in their Minute, and ordered the Ministry to provide the 'memo' which was sent "in confidence" to the Authority to be provided to the plaintiff, and be brought to the attention of the Chief Executive.

The actions of the Ministry are outrageous, as the Minute from the Authority confirms, and that the arrogance which is evident in Mr Van Ooyens actions is most concerning in light of the fact that the Ministry was warned against the practise over two years ago.

Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights forbids the use of secret courts and faceless judges. 

"In confidence" seems to stand for the fact that the Ministry is confident it can get away with this sort of blatant abuse of process on a regular basis, particularly as they were warned against it over two years ago, simply ignored the warning and continued in confidence that the warning didn't apply to them for some reason" says Mrs Raue.  "It would appear that all clients who have unwittingly been judged by Benefit Review Committee members using fake names are entitled to a rehearing and the NZ Beneficiaries and Unemployed Workers Union and Transparency NZ are writing to the Minister and the Chief Executive to ensure that those people are identified, notified, and facilitated. 

We also commend the work done by Mr Graham Howell of the Wellington Benefit Rights Service for assisting the client in this case, and the new Chairman of the Social Security Appeals Authority."
Transparency New Zealand is writing to the United Nations about this matter and will assist the plaintiff in taking further action regarding the actions of the Ministry.

The plaintiff has been the victim of a campaign of bullying by Ministry of Social Development spanning many years, and has suffered extreme hardship as a result.  This Minute vindicates her and confirms what she has been saying all along.

This matter also raises a number of questions about access to justice and human rights, and the implications are wide ranging, including the questions about how many other MSD Remote Client Unit review decisions include false names of the committee members.  It seems every one of them is entitled to a rehearing.

Here is the Minute.  The name of the appellant has been redacted - but only for the time being.  Click on the images to view, and click "ctrl" key and "+" key simultaneously to enlarge the images, a direct link to the pdf file can be accessed here.

Here's where it starts getting really interesting.  "It is difficult to imagine a more effective way of undermining public confidence in the independence of the Authority than for it to acquiesce in the Chief Executive's delegate's actions."  Indeed it is.

Watch this space.
Tigger, our very diligent local correspondent

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