9.Mr Edwards has been the New Zealand Privacy Commissioner since February 2014 and, within that role, was Chair of the Executive Committee of International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners for three years, a member of the OECD Informal Group of Experts on Children in the Digital Environment, and built formal and informal relationships with international organisations (for example, the European Commission, the OECD and the World Bank) and international counterparts from across the world, including the UK, the US and Canada.
10.Prior to his role as the Privacy Commissioner, Mr Edwards was a barrister and solicitor working with a range of clients. He was a policy advisor on Freedom of Information, consultant on Accident insurance reform, and provided training to civil servants on official information and privacy acts.
11.In oral evidence we asked John Edwards about the following specific matters:
12.We asked Mr Edwards about the functioning of the process, which he considered rigorous and fair, but this Committee had to wait a long time before being able to hold this pre-appointment hearing. The preferred candidates were known to the Government well in advance of the summer recess of Parliament and we consider it a failure of Government that this pre-appointment was not held in July. We have broad concerns about our experience of how the pre-appointment process is working and we will question Ministers more closely on these matters in the future.
13.The process of arranging this pre-appointment hearing has been a drawn-out affair. There were two committee hearings arranged before Summer Recess that had to be cancelled which, to our understanding, was due to delays in central government confirming the decision made within the Department. We are concerned that there is a growing trend of the administration interfering in appointment processes that may limit the number of good candidates willing to submit themselves to future competitions.
14.On the basis of the evidence presented, we approve John Edward’s appointment as Information Commissioner and it is to his credit that he told us that if we did not consider him a fit appointment, he would not accept the role. We wish him well in his new post and look forward to working with him in the future.
15.We are disappointed that the Government did not extend its offer of abiding by the decision of the Committee on the appointment of candidate for Information Commissioner. We recommend that the Government give this same undertaking for all future appointments to the position of Information Commissioner.