Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is making sure ministers know her expectations around the use of personal email accounts being used for Government business, after Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran was caught out by the practice.
Curran is on personal leave today after a fumbling performance in Parliament yesterday while being questioned on her use of a Gmail account for Government business.
She admitted that "from time to time, I have used my Gmail account. When using it, I adhere to my obligations as a minister."
In response to questions from National's Melissa Lee, Curran assured Parliament that her staff had access to her email accounts.
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Melissa Lee: Why did she state, "My staff have access to my email accounts and assess whether the correspondence falls under my ministerial portfolios." in the Minister's reply to written question No. 19442?
Clare Curran: Well, because they do.
There is nothing in the Cabinet Manual, the rulebook for ministers, about the use of alternative email accounts.
But Minister of Ministerial Services Chris Hipkins said today that Ardern had asked the Cabinet Office to issue guidance on the use of alternative email accounts by ministers to clarify the issue.
That is expected to happen this week.
"There is nothing specifically in the Cabinet Manual about use of alternate email accounts. However, ministers, in the vast majority of cases, use the parliamentary email for ministerial/government business," Hipkins said.
"There are very practical reasons why ministers sometimes use Gmail … It is good practice on these occasions to CC any Government business emails to their parliamentary emails. It is important to note also that Gmail use is subject to relevant transparency legislation: OIA, Public Records Act," Hipkins said in a statement.
Curran was demoted from Cabinet after it was revealed she had held a meeting with entrepreneur Derek Handley that was not diaried and no staff were aware of it.
It emerged that the meeting, to discuss the Government's chief technology role, was arranged via her Gmail account.