COVID19 bungle most probably happened at middle management level


Following the COVID19 announcement last week, New Zealanders rightfully went into a state of collective fury. At all levels of government, across the strata of New Zealand society, rich and poor, young and old had a massive “for Gods sake” moment as it was announced that two more cases of COVID19 had been found on the afternoon of Tuesday 16 June. Before long we knew it, the calls for resignations before we even had the details of how COVID19 came to resurface in a country that thought it had the virus on the run.

In a very New Zealand way, we demanded a sacrificial lamb. People were wanting the Minister of Health, the Director General or some other very senior official to take the fall. But did those senior officials actually have anything to do with the actual bungle being committed? Very probably not. Don’t blame Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Health Minister David Clark or Director General Ashley Bloomfield. Don’t blame anyone in Civil Defence or anywhere else the COVID19 outbreak this week.

Look at the middle management. This is an area where for whatever reason or combination of reasons, when you have a major managerial failure, the culprits are often found. I imagine someone had a decision to make, maybe at the border, maybe in assessing them at some point in the six days they were being held or maybe at some other point.

In good faith Dr Bloomfield, Mr Clark and Ms Ardern gave instructions on managing COVID19. In equally good faith, they had every reason to expect those instructions to be carried out. When those tasked with giving effect to those instructions failed to do so, their anger would have been just as palpable as that of the New Zealand public, and not just for show either. Having led New Zealand through the most comprehensive shut down of the country in living memory, achieved – or at least THOUGHT – they had achieved something no other nation had done, the anger shown by the Prime Minister at the press conference was palpable.

But about these people in middle management. They might have been responsible for a controlled entry point such as a border crossing at an airport. They might have been faced with someone who did not present any obvious symptoms at the time that unfortunate individual or individuals saw them.  And then there is their boss. Did their staff member/s do adequate/appropriate checks? Did they have anyone to cross check their work? If not then that means someone a bit higher up like a shift supervisor or team leader did not do due diligence. Was the boss of that person aware that they did not do due diligence. If not then that means the culprit is somewhere between the person at the check point and their supervisors boss.

So, let us not indulge in a witch hunt of Ministers, Director Generals and such. The problem is at a much lower level than them. If it were any of the public officials, then that would imply a much worse situation than what we are currently in.