The Government’s first KiwiBuild boss, Stephen Barclay, said on Monday he was pursuing a case of constructive dismissal, after months of uncertainty over how, why & even when he left the job.
Mr Barclay issued a statement in response to one from the Ministry of Housing & Urban Development divulging details of his departure, which he said was an employment matter.
Ministry chief executive Andrew Crisp said in his statement issued earlier on Monday that Mr Barclay’s resignation “came amid an employment investigation which was triggered by complaints received from employees, contractors & stakeholders about Mr Barclay’s leadership behaviour. The allegations reflected behaviours that are not consistent with standards expected of senior public servants.”
Mr Crisp said the alleged conduct related to Mr Barclay’s treatment of employees, contractors & stakeholders, not to the implementation of the KiwiBuild programme: “I commenced an employment investigation into those allegations. While the investigation was ongoing, Mr Barclay resigned.”
Mr Crisp said Mr Barclay received no payment in lieu of notice. As it was an employment matter, Mr Crisp said it would be inappropriate to comment further.
Mr Barclay said in his statement (referring to himself in the third person) the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment employed him from July-October 2018 when the KiwiBuild programme was transferred to the Ministry of Housing & Urban Development: “During this period, there were no issues raised about his performance, management style or leadership.
“Within 2 weeks of the KiwiBuild programme moving to MHUD, he can confirm there were a small number of complaints from individuals who held a close relationship to the chief executive, Mr Crisp. The nature of the complaints related to Mr Barclay’s direct management style and dealings with certain individuals. They were entirely linked to the implementation of the KiwiBuild programme which was Mr Barclay’s only remit. His commitment was to execute against the targets of the KiwiBuild programme, and he was attempting to do this at pace.
“As soon as Mr Barclay was informed of the complaints, he responded to them within the week, requesting the complaints be independently investigated and additional people relevant to the complaints be questioned. These requests were repeatedly denied and Mr Barclay was suspended from his role for more than 2 months. This made his position untenable and led him to resign in his & the KiwiBuild programme’s best interests. At the point in which he was suspended, the number of KiwiBuild homes were on track to meet the Year One target.”
After months of doubt over whether he’d been suspended or resigned, Mr Barclay formally tendered his resignation on 18 January.
Background on the new ministry
The new ministry started operation on 1 October 2018. Andrew Crisp, at that time chief executive of the ministry establishment team, said in a release the ministry’s job was to “be the Government’s lead advisor on housing & urband evelopment. We will help the Government to deliver its ambitious housing & urban development programme to:
- address homelessness
- increase public & private housing supply
- make existing homes warmer & healthier
- make housing affordable for people to rent & buy, and
- support quality urban development & thriving communities.
“This is not work we can do alone. We will be looking outwards to build our connections & relationships across the wider public & private sectors, including how we will partner & work with Maori.”
The ministry began by drawing functions from existing Government entities – housing policy, funding & regulatory functions from the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE), the Ministry of Social Development and Treasury, including:
- MBIE’s housing & urban policy functions, the KiwiBuild unit and the Community Housing Regulatory Authority
- the Ministry of Social Development’s policy for emergency, transitional, public housing & aspects of private housing subsidies, and the provider-facing purchaser role for emergency, transitional & public housing, and
- Treasury’s monitoring of Housing NZ & the Tamaki Redevelopment Co Ltd (41% owned by Auckland Council).
Mr Crisp said that, when fully operational, the new ministry would:
- lead a comprehensive housing strategy for New Zealand, working closely with iwi, the housing & urban development sector, the social sector, central & local government & communities
- give strategic, connected advice across the housing system, from addressing homelessness to developing affordable, healthy housing that meets the needs of a changing population
- drive urban development strategies to create the spaces, infrastructure & services that thriving communities need
- drive collective accountability, leading a board of Government chief executives to deliver the Government’s housing & urban development priorities, and
- be strongly evidence-based, developing better data & analysis to track its progress & drive its strategies.
Mr Crisp was appointed chief executive of the new ministry on 4 December, after being acting chief executive on secondment from his role as chief executive of Land Information NZ. Before that, he was deputy chief executive, building, resources & markets at the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment.
State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes said on Mr Crisp’s December appointment: “Mr Crisp is a seasoned public servant & leader with significant experience working in the housing & urban development sector.
“His career includes 13 years in senior & executive leadership roles and he has a deep understanding of the New Zealand housing system. He has a track record of successfully driving organisational & system performance, through his engagement skills, integrity & authenticity.
“Mr Crisp has extensive experience in managing at the political interface, and in leading and delivering demanding programmes of work that have prepared him for this role. He is a strong public service leader who embodies the spirit of service.”
Mr Crisp’s appointment was for 5 years, starting 17 December.
Still setting up shop
As for moving past its dismal opening performance of fewer than 50 houses built, Mr Crisp said: “Since mid-November last year, the KiwiBuild team has been under the oversight of head of office of the chief executive, Brad Ward. The team has continued to work hard during this time alongside the minister and with the developer community to meet the KiwiBuild programme objectives.
“During this time, the Government also announced the establishment of the Housing & Urban Development Authority (HUDA) which will bring together the market-facing, delivery components of the Government’s housing supply programmes – KiwiBuild, Housing NZ & HLC Ltd (ex-Hobsonville Land Co Ltd).
“It is critical that an integrated approach across these delivery programmes is taken immediately, before the HUDA is officially up & running and work has begun on this.”
Attribution: Barclay & ministry releases.