National deputy leader Paula Bennett says that outgoing Treasury boss Gabriel Makhlouf is incompetent and should apologise for his "Mickey Mouse" handling of the so-called Budget hack that wasn't a hack.
Her comments follow the release this morning of a State Services Commission investigation into Makhlouf, which found that he had acted in good faith and without political bias, but he had failed to meet the standards expected of a public service chief executive.
The report found that Makhlouf's statements to media before Budget day were unreasonable, and he should have consulted more and taken greater personal responsibility - and should have done so publicly.
Makhlouf has remained defiant, telling his employer State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes that he had done nothing wrong.
Bennett said that wasn't good enough, and Makhlouf needed to step up and take responsibility for his "Mickey Mouse operation".
"The level of incompetence right across, and it more being about butt-covering and trying to throw other people under the bus instead of standing up and taking personal responsibility ... is something I haven't seen in the public service for a very long time," Bennett said.
"The very least we should be expecting is an apology to the New Zealand public for the incompetence that's been shown throughout this whole episode.
"He should have taken responsibility weeks ago."
National's finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith said the criticisms of Makhlouf applied equally to Finance Minister Grant Robertson.
"Fundamentally, the buck stops with him in terms of accountability for Budget secrecy."
Goldsmith said that Robertson should have offered his resignation and, asked if he should now, he said: "I don't think he will now, but he should have."
Bennett accepted the report's findings that Makhlouf had not deliberately misled Finance Minister Grant Robertson, nor had he orchestrated a hit job on the National Party or showed any political bias.
But she said that Robertson, whose conduct the commission has no jurisdiction over, had been wrong to say that the "hacking" of the Treasury was linked to the confidential Budget 2019 information that the National Party had already released.
The commission's report showed that Robertson called Makhlouf an hour after he put out his statement to ask whether there was any evidence that the National Party was involved.
Makhlouf told him there was none.
Robertson should have cleared that up the following day, Goldsmith said.
"He did nothing on Wednesday to correct that - that is where I think he is most culpable."
Robertson released a statement today repeating his disappointment that the Treasury website had been used to access confidential information.
Bennett said she stood by National's previous comments that the Government had "sat on a lie" by not correcting the statement about the Treasury had been systematically hacked, even after advice from the Government Communications Security Bureau's cybersecurity unit that there was no hack.
The commission's report said it was reasonable for the Treasury to take its time to put out a statement , but Bennett said that was unacceptable.
"Not in any way, shape or form. They sat on it for more than 30 hours, knowing exactly what the truth was and deciding not to release it.
"Tuesday even they knew it wasn't a hack ... we had the Finance Minister himself link it to the National Party, and all day Wednesday right through to 5am on Thursday morning, they sat knowing it wasn't a hack."
Today is Makhlouf's last day working at the Treasury before he takes up a position as head of Ireland's Central Bank.
A spokesperson at the Treasury said Makhlouf would be releasing a statement later today.