Defence Force transparency found wanting

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) was found to have "manifestly inadequate" administration and institutional accountability systems for gathering, recording, preserving, investigating and providing information. This directly impacted on the quality of information provided by NZDF to successive Ministers of Defence, and through them to Parliament.

This is one of the findings in the recently published Report of the Government Inquiry into Operation Burnham. This operation was undertaken by New Zealand Special Air Service (NZSAS) troops, in Afghanistan in 2010.

The 2-year long Inquiry was triggered by the 2017 book Hit & Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan, and the meaning of honour, written by journalists Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson. Whereas they alleged an information cover-up by NZDF, the Inquiry did not accept there had been an organised institutional strategy in this regard.

The first of the Inquiry’s four recommendations is that the Minister of Defence take steps to satisfy him or herself that NZDF’s (a) organisational structure and (b) record-keeping and retrieval processes are in accordance with international best practice and are sufficient to remove or reduce the possibility of organisational and administrative failings of the type identified.

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