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NZ Film Commission 'Conflict of Interest' Report Released

Photo: Jakob Owens/Unsplash.
The Independent Report into the New Zealand Film Commission saga has just been announced - get the full details here.

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The Conflict of Interest saga that has plagued the New Zealand Film Commission finally has some details.

 

The issue came to the fore with former CEO David Strong’s authorial interest in The Pilgrim, a TV series that received development funding from New Zealand On Air. As covered previously on The Big Idea, Strong declared his involvement to the Board when he was apppointed last year - he subsequently stood down earlier this month.

 

The independent review commissioned by the NZFC Board on its conflict of interest management policy and processes has been released today - with a release stating that it “has found that nothing improper occurred but said disclosure and management of interests and potential conflicts could be improved.”

 

The Report says “the Board and David Strong both had opportunities to better handle the disclosure and management of his conflicts of interest”, during and following his recruitment, and recommends better documentation of expectations, discussions, and decisions about conflicts of interest and their management.

 

The Report highlights that the Board should have had better documented agreements about how the conflict relating to David Strong’s drama series The Pilgrim would be managed.

 

It states that the Board should have ensured that NZFC staff and key stakeholders were informed about the Board’s process to manage conflicts.

 

In a statement, outgoing Board Chair Dame Kerry Prendergast says the Board accepts the findings of the Report and its recommendations.

 

“The Report’s event timeline show that conflicts of interest were identified and managed, but the recommendation is that our approach should have been more thorough, and we agree.

 

“The Report found that initially David Strong’s potential conflict was known, discussed and a method of managing it was agreed. But when a subsequent potential conflict arose, we failed to formally document planned actions.”

 

Prendergast says the report was clear that many conflicts of interest are manageable, which is crucial to a small country and screen industry where potential conflicts are likely among the experienced staff needed for the NZFC and similar organisations.

 

“The report is important to the future of the NZFC’s appointments”.

 

The Board has announced it has adopted changes to:

 

- Include conflict of interest expectations in the CEO job description, increase conflict of interest disclosure steps in the CEO employment process, and document all decisions and agreements relating to those conflicts

 

- Review the NZFC Staff Conflict of Interest Policy, train staff on the revised policy, and update the Staff Interest Declaration form to include any agreed management plan where conflicts arise

 

-  Update the Board Governance Manual and NZFC Rules governing delegations to provide additional guidance around conflicts of interest

 

- Provide minute-taking training for staff, including for recording conflict of interest declarations

 

- Publish the (updated) conflict of interest policies for staff and Board members on the NZFC website

 

- Amend the Terms of Reference of all Board committees and working groups to include a process for identifying and managing conflicts of interest.

 

How the rest of the film industry reacts to these findings will be of interest.

 

The New Zealand Screen Producers Guild (SPADA) President Irene Gardiner quickly responded, welcoming the report and feels that it vindicates the concern that arose from the situation.

 

“It would have been good if this could have all been resolved a little earlier, but at least we have the report and its recommendations now, and we are looking forward to new NZFC Chair Alastair Carruthers taking up his position in October, and the appointment of a new CEO, so we can keep our industry moving along effectively and efficiently”.