Calls for independent investigation into Transport Ministry fraud

by Benedict Collins / 17 May, 2017
Auditor-General Martin Matthews Photo: RNZ/Kim Baker Wilson

The public should be "brassed off", claims Winston Peters.

The auditor-general should step down while extensive fraud that happened under his watch is investigated, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says.

Martin Matthews was the Transport Ministry's chief executive when ministry employee Joanne Harrison stole nearly $750,000.

The Labour Party and United Future is also calling for an independent inquiry into the extent of the fraud.

Mr Matthews was repeatedly alerted to what senior management regarded as Harrison's "astounding" behaviour, but for years did not act.

Politicians who appointed him as auditor-general say they were never made aware of the full scale of the fraud.

In addition to stealing money, Harrison also secured jobs in the public sector for those close to her.

A friend of hers was on the ministry's payroll for 10 months but never turned up or did any work.

She also tricked another government agency into hiring her husband, on a six-figure salary.

Harrison then refused to co-operate with internal investigations into the dodgy contracts she was signing.

Every time red flags were raised with Mr Matthews, he accepted Harrison's explanations - making it clear he did not want to undermine her trust.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters was furious Mr Matthews' lack of action was not made clear to politicians when they appointed him as auditor-general.

"The auditor-general himself, I believe, must stand down until a full-scale inquiry gets to the end of this matter."

Mr Peters said he found it hard to believe Mr Matthews did not know what was going on.

"The appointment process went to Parliament, and parliamentarians and parties are required to say whether they support or don't support.

"If we'd have known what had gone on, there's no way we would have said that. We feel seriously brassed off, and so should the public."

Labour leader Andrew Little said the failures at the Transport Ministry were disturbing and, given the ongoing revelations, it would be more appropriate for the State Services Commission to investigate exactly what went on.

Mr Little questioned whether the panel of politicians who interviewed Mr Matthews for the role in 2016 knew the full story.

"I've spoken to Trevor Mallard, our representative on the panel. He said there was information out there now that he wasn't aware of at the time the appointment was made."

Prime Minister Bill English said it would be a drastic step for Mr Matthews to step down.

While he was not familiar with all the details of the case, it had been dealt with satisfactorily, which showed the system was able to pick up problems, he said.

Any further investigation would be done by the State Services Commission, he said.

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes refused to be interviewed but said Harrison's fraud had been "the subject of a number of independent reviews which have considered all the available information".

 

This article was originally published by RNZ.

Latest

Bill Ralston: Only fundamentalist Christians should be hurt by Israel Folau
104814 2019-04-20 00:00:00Z Social issues

Bill Ralston: Only fundamentalist Christians shoul…

by Bill Ralston

Israel Folau’s social-media post might condemn the Wallabies to Rugby World Cup hell, but the rest of us should ignore him.

Read more
What happens next with the Mueller report?
104863 2019-04-20 00:00:00Z World

What happens next with the Mueller report?

by Noted

Did Trump “corrupt” with intent?

Read more
The Heart Dances: Lifting the lid on the culture clash behind ‘The Piano’ ballet
104740 2019-04-20 00:00:00Z Movies

The Heart Dances: Lifting the lid on the culture c…

by Russell Baillie

Documentary offers an intriguing look at the clash of artistic sensibilities behind adapting The Piano into a ballet.

Read more
How this remarkable native insect is being saved
104836 2019-04-20 00:00:00Z Planet

How this remarkable native insect is being saved

by Jenny Nicholls

Principles of bird conservation are helping to save another remarkable native you’ve never heard of.

Read more
Environment Ministry 'unashamedly proud' of bleak report's honesty
104868 2019-04-20 00:00:00Z Planet

Environment Ministry 'unashamedly proud' of bleak…

by RNZ

The Secretary for the Environment Vicky Robertson said she was proud of the report's honesty and it was an important stocktake for the country.

Read more
The new What We Do in the Shadows is more dad joke than demonic
104712 2019-04-19 00:00:00Z Television

The new What We Do in the Shadows is more dad joke…

by Diana Wichtel

Diana Wichtel reviews a new American TV series based on the hit Kiwi comedy.

Read more
Louis & Louise is a satisfying exploration of gender and identity
104230 2019-04-19 00:00:00Z Books

Louis & Louise is a satisfying exploration of gend…

by Brigid Feehan

In her latest novel, Julie Cohen traces the parallel male and female lives of a single character.

Read more
Win a copy of Sir David Attenborough's Life on Earth: 40th Anniversary Edition
104844 2019-04-19 00:00:00Z Win

Win a copy of Sir David Attenborough's Life on Ear…

by The Listener

To celebrate Sir David Attenborough season on Sky, we are giving away copies of his book Life on Earth: 40th Anniversary Edition.

Read more