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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 26

[Letter to Sir James Fergusson]

To His Excellency Sir James Fergusson, Bart., Governor of New Zealand, &c., &c.,

The Memorial of Henry Eustace de Bathe Brandon, an officer of the Civil Service of New Zealand, resident in Wellington, sheweth,—

Your memorialist has received with pain and regret the decision arrived at by the Government in the matter of the recent enquiry into the truth of certain charges preferred against him as Chief Clerk and Accountant of the Stamp Department at Wellington, namely:— page 16

"Accordingly it has been determined that you shall not be reinstated in your position in the Stamp Department, but that employment shall be found for you in some other office. That your salary shall be reduced to two hundred pounds per Annum, at which rate you will be paid from the date of your suspension from office, and that you should be directed to hold yourself in readiness to proceed at short notice to any part of the Colony at which your services may be required."

And your memorialist respectfully prays that your Excellency will be pleased to recommend a reconsideration of the above decision on the following grounds :—

Your memorialist conceives that the omission in the Report of the Commissioners to show in what manner the stamps dealt with by him came into his possession may have prejudiced his case, having left it open to surmises unfavourable, as well as otherwise, and would explain, that during the period he acted under the supervision of Mr. Batkin, and previous to the separation of the local from the head office, in December, 1872, it was the custom of Postmasters and others requiring stamps, occasionally, to make remittances to the office in postage or duty stamps (the latter probably being unsaleable, or not required by them). In many instances, when this was done, instead of getting these stamps converted into money by application to stamp distributors (in which there was very often great difficulty) he paid the value of them himself out of his own money in order that the full remittance might be paid to the credit of the Public Account in the Bank, and he put aside the stamps so dealt with until opportunity should occur of converting them into money, or otherwise utilising them; or, in other words, the stamps he received were received on Government account, and could not be converted into money by any direct method, and having, for the purpose of simplifying the accounts, paid into the Bank to the Public Account the value of those stamps, he kept them and used them again on Government service when opportunity occurred.

The Commissioners report that there is no evidence, or any reasonable presumption, that he possessed himself of the stamps wrongfully, and after pointing out the only modes by which he could, had he desired so to do, have obtained stamps improperly, they report that they could not find any reasonable grounds to suspect that he obtained stamps by either of the modes thus stated.

Your memorialist would urge, in extenuation of this irregularity, that he was at the time the acting head of the office; that the way in which the requisitions referred to in charge No. 1 were supplied was recorded by memoranda thereof being endorsed on the requisitions themselves, and the issue of the stamps shown in the post-office receipt book, and that all the requisitions were among the office papers.

Your memorialist submits that in this charge is shown one of the results of the false position in which he was placed, as admitted page 17 by the Commissioners, in having the responsibility and acting with authority as the head of the department while deemed censurable for a deviation in the routine or procedure of the office as a subordinate.

As to charge No. 3, of dealing in and buying and exchanging stamps, he admits it to the extent before referred to, but it was in his official capacity as Chief Clerk of the department; and he denies that he has ever sold stamps to the public, or in any way held himself out to be a distributor or vendor of stamps. He did, occasionally, for the purpose of obliging them, supply stamps of his own to officers of the service, but in no instance whatever has he derived any pecuniary or other benefit, either directly or indirectly.

With reference to charge No. 4, that of having kept certain stamps in a private drawer, and not having entered them in the books of the office, your memorialist would explain that the whole of the twopenny stamps (563 in number) had been rendered practically useless by the provisions of the amending Stamp Act of 1872. They had been sent to the Stamp Office for destruction, had passed through the hands of the examining officer, and were not received by your memorialist in the first instance. It was impossible, therefore, that he could know from whom they had been received if the clerk whose duty it was to attend to that work foiled to examine them with care, and to enter them into the accounts in the usual way. Your memorialist may also state that the twopenny stamps after being so sent in could not have been made profitable, or in any way converted into money by an officer; application must have been made at the local office to have their value repaid, but that would have been done only on an affidavit that they were the private property of the applicant.

With reference to charge No. 5, your memorialist, since the receipt of the Report, has had called to his remembrance (by Mr. Quick, of the firm of Brandon & Quick of this city) an incident which will corroborate his statement that he had Mr. Batkin's permission to make up succession duty accounts. Mr. Quick has reminded him that in a conversation between them some four or five years since your memorialist then stated that he had spoken to Mr. Batkin on the subject, and that Mr. Batkin had said that he saw no objection to your memorialist so doing, provided it did not interfere with the business of the office. With all due respect to the Commissioners, there appeal's to your memorialist to be some misunderstanding by them of the procedure of the office with reference to the nature of these accounts, or of the action of your memorialist therein, for what possible difference can there be in assisting persons in "unravelling these intricate matters" gratuitously in office hours, and doing so after office hours, whether gratuitously or for fee, so far as any relation could exist as between him and the taxpayer. The accounts in both cases would be compiled from vouchers and papers supplied by the parties, and when completed returned to them to be sworn to as correct in the usual form. He certainly never was instructed that it was his duty to assist in making up these accounts, page 18 nor could he possibly have done so generally without very materially interfering with the other immediate duties of his office, to the performance of which it is admitted he gave tune considerably beyond the usual office honrs.

With reference to the serious breach of duty mentioned as having occurred in 1873 your Memorialist would explain that the error, if one, arose in his retaining a crossed cheque tendered to and left with him for succession duty by Messrs. Brandon & Quick. The accounts to which this duty referred were not completed and vouched for in the manner required by the office, he refused therefore to accept them and returned them to Messrs. Brandon & Quick in order that they might be completed and the requisite vouchers produced; he did not deem it right to accept the cheque in payment of duty to the Government until the accounts were finally rendered in the shape he required them, and supported by the proper vouchers. Immediately this was done the cheque was handed over to the person to whom the duty was payable. The delay in procuring the requisite vouchers arose, as he was informed, from the absence of the Agent for the Executor from the Province, and at this time there was no regulation against the reception by your Memorialist of succession duty under such circumstances.

The Commissioners point out that your Memorialist had a large amount of work and heavy responsibilities imposed upon him; that he had been placed in a false position, and that he had in fact to perform the duties of Secretary for Stamps, in addition to those of Chief Clerk and Accountant, and that in dealing with his case his peculiar position should be taken into consideration.

That the Commissioners call your Excellency's attention to the necessity of some change in the organisation of the Stamp Department, and especially of some more satisfactory check than exists at present in the use of the machines for impressing stamps.

That your Memorialist is not responsible for the organisation of the office. That he has himself from time to time made suggestions for the better administration of the Department and particularly with respect to an inspection of the various branches throughout the Colony, and repeating the recommendation of Dr. Knight (the Auditor-General) that there should be some satisfactory check in the manufacture of Stamps. And lastly, your Memorialist would ask your Excellency's attention to the evidence of Mr. O'Rorke, lately the Ministerial Head of the Department, contained in a telegram which appears to have been received since the date of the Report, and trusts that your Excellency will see fit to comply with the prayer of your Memorialist that the decision which has been given in this case may be reconsidered.

E. Brandon.

Note.—No notice has been taken of this Memorial.

E.B.