Southern Response spy accusations: Agency accused of trying to stifle critics

by Conan Young / 08 March, 2018

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Homeowners with unresolved claims have been criticising Southern Response for years .Photo / RNZ

State Services Commission to look at whether state agency has breached conduct in hiring a security company.

The man that state agency Southern Response has allegedly been spying on says the agency is trying to stifle its critics.

The government agency is in charge of settling the outstanding quake claims of former AMI customers in Christchurch, but is now under investigation by the public sector watchdog, the State Services Commission.

The Commission is looking into whether Southern Response breached standards of integrity and conduct for state servants in its hiring of security company, Thompson and Clark.

Commissioner Peter Hughes will announce who will lead the inquiry and its terms of reference next week.

Southern Response chair Ross Butler said the contractor was hired in 2014 to carry out a security review and assess the level of risk faced by staff.

Staff had a right to be able to interact in an environment safe from threats or harm, he said.

But customer Cameron Preston said claims by the agency that he was trying to intimidate it, by sending daily emails demanding action over his case, are a smokescreen.

"Spending taxpayers' money to get information to then lean on the police to come around and sort of talk to me, I think that's far worse intimidation."

Mr Preston said he had obtained papers showing Southern Response had spent $170,000 on Thompson and Clark's services from the start of 2014 to April last year.

His claim had long been settled and he could only guess the agency's ongoing interest in him was to do with his non-paid advocacy work for those struggling to settle their own claims.

He would be surprised if he was the only client Southern Response had been spying on, he said.

In a statement, Thompson and Clark said it did not disclose who its clients were or comment on its operations.

But it said it did operate within the law and industry guidelines.

This article was originally published by RNZ.

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