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Gabs's last hurrah - Makhlouf apologises, agrees he erred

Friday 28th June 2019

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The departing secretary to the Treasury, Gabriel 'Gabs' Makhlouf has issued an apology for his department's lax website security and agreed that he got it wrong in describing the resulting breach of Budget security as a case of being "deliberately and systematically hacked".

The National Party had discovered it could access Budget materials using the search bar on the Treasury website and released documents ahead of the May 30 Budget, derailing the lead-up to the coalition government's first 'well-being' Budget.

In a statement issued by the Treasury just before the end of Makhlouf's last working day and overshadowed by a Cabinet reshuffle announcement, Makhlouf said he was pleased the report into the security breach by deputy state services commissioner John Ombler had found that "my honesty and integrity are not in question".

"Mr Ombler’s investigation was conducted thoroughly and fairly," said Makhlouf. "I have read the report carefully and encourage others to do so. I apologise that Budget information was not kept secure. The inquiry that I asked the SSC Commissioner to undertake will help us understand exactly how that happened and how to stop it happening again.

"The report confirms I acted at all times in good faith and with political neutrality. It also confirms that I acted reasonably, other than in my descriptions of the incident."

Makhlouf, who described himself at a surprisingly civil farewell at Parliament on June 13 as someone who had arrived to take the job as "a Pom, and leave a Kiwi" said it had been "my privilege to have had the opportunity to serve New Zealanders and I’m very proud of what my Treasury team has achieved over the last eight years".

The Ombler report prompted SSC head Peter Hughes to "call it out" that Makhlouf had failed to take personal responsibility for the breach of Budget secrecy and intimated at a press conference that he would have expected Makhlouf to offer his resignation over such a serious breach of a core responsibility of the Treasury to protect sensitive economic information.

"No offer was forthcoming. He was aware of his options," said Hughes.

(BusinessDesk)

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