State service head dodges fallout from Rankin case

By FRANCESCA MOLD political reporter

The man who refused to re-employ flamboyant welfare boss Christine Rankin has been reappointed to his own job on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.

Helen Clark said yesterday that she had recommended Michael Wintringham's contract as State Services Commissioner be extended until May 2003 to ensure continuity until after next year's election.

Mr Wintringham has been commissioner for five years.

His salary band is between $290,000 and $299,000 a year.

Mrs Rankin sued him for $1.2 million this year after he chose not to recommend her for reappointment as head of Work and Income New Zealand.

During the Employment Court case, Mr Wintringham said Mrs Rankin had failed to win the confidence of the Government and lacked the skills or intellectual rigour required to head the newly combined Winz and Ministry of Social Policy.

Mrs Rankin accused her boss of caving in to political interference and failing to support her through the troubles at Winz.

She claimed he had given her reason to believe she had a long career in the public service ahead of her.

Mrs Rankin also alleged that Mr Wintringham offered to visit her in Australia if she found work there and take her out for dinner, although it would be platonic because he was celibate.

Mr Wintringham said Mrs Rankin had taken his comments out of context and he was hurt that she made a personal conversation public.

Helen Clark yesterday agreed that Mr Wintringham's reappointment indicated there had been no fallout for him as a result of the highly publicised court case.

"He conducted himself with some dignity through rather a difficult period," the Prime Minister said.

She said Mr Wintringham would head major projects over the next two years.

These would include the e-government programme and public service senior management development.

"It is important, particularly as we head into an election year, that the public service is led by a person who understands the delicate balance between being responsive to the requirements of the Government of the day and guarding the political neutrality of the public service," said Helen Clark.

Former PricewaterhouseCoopers consultant Tony Hartevelt has been appointed deputy commissioner for a five-year term.

His salary is likely to be between $190,000 and $200,000 a year.

Feature: the Rankin file

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