...Daly: What really is the role of these 'special advisers'?
It is 'disturbing" that former Ministry of National Security strategic adviser Garvin Heerah was assisting retired police sergeant Mervyn Cordner with his "transport requirement" and the acquisition of a computer and printer, Senior Counsel Martin Daly said yesterday.
Daly said several things from Heerah's statement on the New Flying Squad Investigation Unit (NFSIU) "jumped out the page".
The first, he said, was his attempt to make a "fine distinction" by emphasising that he was the strategic adviser to the Minister, as opposed to director of the National Security Operations Centre, when he met with Cordner.
Daly said it did not make the slightest difference what Heerah was if he facilitated anything relating to the new Flying Squad since the fact was that he was operating under the aegis of the Ministry of National Security.
Daly said he has always been uncomfortable with these posts of advisers (special adviser and strategic adviser) with persons being brought in by the Minister who have the ability to use the Ministry as a platform and can "make just this kind of contact that upsets the whole apple cart".
"What is really the role of these special advisers whose proximity to the ministers gives them unaccountable power?" Daly asked. "Once again, we have an enquiry into the activities surrounding a special adviser."
Daly pointed out that Heerah said Cordner indicated that his men were receiving information about a marijuana field in the Northern Range and were in need of transport to assist with this matter.
The statement said: "Mr Cordner was given the name of an individual who owned some vehicles...This individual had offered the use of his vehicles 'pro bono' to the Ministry before, as a gesture of good faith...Mr Cordner was asked to contact the individual and arrange for the use of a vehicle whenever there was a transport requirement."
Daly said: "Mr Cordner has no status and therefore could not have a transport requirement in relation to criminal activities anywhere...So why would anyone try to satisfy their (Flying Squad) need for transport even as a pro bono, or gesture of good will because they couldn't do anything with the information they had. So why would one offer a contact for vehicles?"
Daly said he was equally "bothered" by the idea of assisting Cordner with a computer. The statement said: "Mr (Rocky) Pacheco (an accountant at Ministry of National Security) was following up on a verbal request for a computer and printer. This request was raised with Mr Wayne Riley (adviser to the Minister) who promised to address it on his return from an emergency trip abroad...During one of these email exchanges I responded that I am awaiting Mr Riley's return and said that I will seek the Minister's sign off for the computer request. This was done as a re-endorsement of the fact that there was no approval to authorise any request."
Daly asked why the request for a computer and printer had been entertained at all, since Cordner and others had no status.
"So I don't know that I am very impressed by all this reference to Cordner not having approval. You might not have formal approval for something but, short of approval, you might be encouraged, or facilitated in doing that activity," the Senior Counsel stated.
Daly said that statement also said "and if it may not be true", that Acting Commissioner Stephen Williams was approached on the matter for advice and guidance. He wondered whether the Commissioner dismissed the suggestion and did nothing further or did it ring any warning bells with the Commissioner.
Daly said if the Commissioner had not been involved, he would have been the best person to do an inquiry. But the reference in the statement to Williams meant that he (Daly) was supporting the position taken by others for an independent investigation.
He said the Police Complaints Authority (an an investigator in this matter) was constrained by the powers and functions under Part Three of the PCA Act and therefore he was not sure whether the Act would allow the PCA to conduct the kind of investigation needed.
However, Daly concluded: "This is a country where the grapevine is incredibly efficient and therefore one would have expected word of these movements (of a new Flying Squad operating) to have reached the ears of the police."