Revealed: Govt releases emails, WhatsApp messages on Derek Handley

Revealed: Govt releases emails, WhatsApp messages on Derek Handley
Photo credit: Newshub.

A series of WhatsApp messages between Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and former Minister Clare Curran, as well as emails sent between Ms Curran and Derek Handley have been released.

Read the document dump here.

The messages sent between January and August reveal the challenge in finding a suitable candidate for the Government's chief technology officer (CTO) role.

Mr Handley was offered the position before the offer was withdrawn, at a cost of $100,000.

The Opposition says the document release shows the Prime Minister was deeply involved in the process.

"The messages show she was very much across the details of the appointment. The Prime Minister needs to explain why she was so deeply invested," National's State Services spokesperson Nick Smith said.

"The Prime Minister’s Chief Press Secretary contacted Derek Handley asking to speak with him urgently and Mr Handley later sought advice in return. The Prime Minister’s Acting Chief of Staff also phoned Mr Handley. How can the Prime Minister have shrugged all of this off so casually when her office was so deeply involved?"

Government Digital Services Minister Megan Woods said it "is clear from these communications that the Prime Minister was not involved in the shortlisting of candidates and that Clare acted independently in deciding who the preferred candidates were."

Communication between the Prime Minister and Derek Handley

  • November 4, 2017 at 8:51am - text message sent from Mr Handley to Ms Ardern: "Rt Hon J! I'm in Auckland next week for two days. Who is best to meet to explore how I can help or what role I could play in support of you? D [sic]."

The Prime Minister did not respond.

  • Mr Handley repeats his offer of "help and support" to a senior Labour party official. The document does not note the date.

  • The offer is passed to the Prime Minister's acting chief of staff, who calls Mr Handley on December 22, 2017. The call was "introductory and covered Mr Handley's offer in broad terms. It did not include discussions or reference the CTO or action any other role. No further calls or action were taken. The Prime Minister was not advised of the call".

  • August 23 and 24: Ms Ardern's chief secretary calls Mr Handley "to advise him of the impending announcement about Hon Clare Curran and the fact his name would be entering the media".

  • August 30: Mr Handley and the chief press secretary had a conversation "regarding the media coverage following the decision to stand Ms Curran down".

Chief legal officer's report on the process for the appointment finds:

  • "It was unlikely a challenge on the grounds of the process would be successful.

  • "A lay observer, fully informed on the facts, would not reasonably suspect that Ms Curran was biased.

  • "The evidence suggested a suitably robust recruitment process.

  • "Viewed objectively, the meeting between Ms Curran and Mr Handley before the appointment process comment did not prejudice the process."

CTO timeline

  • December 19: CTO role created

  • January 15: Applications for CTO role close

  • January 28: Ms Curran tells the Prime Minister there is a four-person shortlist for the CTO role. "I'm worried they've left at least one person off the list," she says

  • February 8: Ms Curran tells Ms Ardern they have a preferred candidate

  • February 12: Search for the CTO role is 'widened'

  • February 13: Ms Curran tells Ms Ardern there has been 'minimal fallout' from the non-appointment of the CTO role

  • February 13: Mr Handley contacts Ms Curran about the CTO role

  • February 4-26: Ms Curran and Mr Handley send messages and emails coordinating a time to meet

  • February 27: Mr Handley meets Ms Curran at 8pm in the Beehive

  • March 10: Ms Curran texts Mr Handley an email address to send his application to

  • March 12: Mr Handley replies thanking Ms Curran for the email address

  • March 27: Mr Handley emails MBIE asking if and when the application process re-opens

  • May 8: Applications re-opened for the CTO role

  • July 3: Ms Curran tells Ms Ardern there are four finalists, including Mr Handley

  • July 3: "I am happy to leave the process to you and the team! Sounds rigorous," the Prime Minister replies

  • July 31: Ms Curran tells the Prime Minister she is sending information recommending Mr Handley for the CTO role

  • August 24: Ms Curran removed from Cabinet for failing to record the Beehive meeting

  • August 24: Ms Curran messages the Prime Minister to say she hopes the other candidate has been contacted "as we were leaving that until close to the announcement"

  • August 24: "Yes. I understand that's in hand," Ms Ardern replies.

  • September 14: Government withdraws its job offer and pays out Mr Handley $100,000 (three months of the one year contract for services offered to him) and $7500 for set-up expenses.