Auditor General resigns

I think it was the only option for Martin Matthews to resign.

RNZ: Auditor-General resigns over fraud investigation

Auditor-General Martin Matthews has resigned due to a critical report into his handling of a major fraud case when he led the Transport Ministry.

But the MPs who ordered that report are now refusing to release it to the public.

Mr Matthews was head of the Transport Ministry while a manager, Joanne Harrison, stole nearly three quarters of a million dollars over several years, despite staff repeatedly raising concerns.

He stepped aside temporarily from his subsequent role as Auditor-General while an inquiry was carried out into whether he was suitable to remain the country’s top public watchdog.

That investigation, by senior public servant Sir Maarten Wevers, began in May and was due to take two weeks, but was delayed.

Read the full official briefing on the report, released this afternoon,here.

Mr Matthews confirmed his resignation this afternoon, saying the “issues and speculation” about how he handled the fraud investigation made it “untenable” for him to continue on as Auditor-General.

“I deeply regret and apologise for the fraud that was committed,” he said in a written statement.

“I wished it had never happened but I accept I am accountable for everything done in and by the Ministry when I was CEO and I am ultimately responsible.

“I feel as angry and aggrieved as anyone about [Harrison’s] stealing and breaches of trust.”

Joanne Harrison was sentenced in February to three years seven months in prison for defrauding the Crown of $723,000.

separate inquiry by the State Services Commission last month found Harrison helped force whistleblowers out of their jobs too early after they raised concerns about her.

Background to the appalling fraud,  Matthews’ inaction and impact on whistleblowers:

The Spinoff:  Is fraudster Joanne Harrison’s old boss really fit to lead NZ’s top public watchdog?

Pete Kane has supplied these updates (audio):

Findings to stay ‘secret’. Don’t get it’
http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/201853471/auditor-gen-falls-on-sword-over-transport-ministry-fraudster

Update.
http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/201853483/report-that-prompted-auditor-gen-to-resign-won-t-be-made-public

More background from RNZ:

Concerns raised in Harrison fraud case

Concerns have been raised about why Joanne Harrison was able to get away with fraud in the Ministry of Transport.

Winston Peters calling for a resignation is nothing new, and he does so in this case, with the now Auditor General his target.

Stuff: ‘Clandestine rendezvous’ plotting revealed in Joanne Harrison Transport Ministry fraud case

Fraudster Joanne Harrison tried arranging a night-time “clandestine rendezvous” in her Ministry of Transport office while she was under investigation.

The ministry has also confirmed there were multiple concerns raised about Harrison long before she fled the country last year, in the wake of her $725,000 fraud.

Harrison wreaked havoc at the transport ministry for years and was wanted in Australia over fraud allegations. She stole money from the ministry partly through invoicing fake companies.

New documents released after an Official Information Act request by Stuff show someone was caught on a surveillance camera trying to sneak into the ministry’s office on April 25 last year, three days after Harrison learned she was under investigation and that her building access would be revoked.

Harrison urged a contractor to enter the premises, access her office, and leave an envelope in the payroll office.

Peters, Labour’s Sue Moroney, and the Greens’ Julie-Anne Genter​ raised concerns this week about the fraud, and about Matthews continuing as auditor-general.

Peters…

…has now called for Harrison’s former ministry boss Martin Matthews – who is currently the auditor-general, to stand down.

“He should step down,” Peters said of Matthews on Tuesday afternoon, citing the plight of three MoT whistleblowers he said were treated abysmally.

Peters said that, based on his analysis, “a number of people seriously misled Parliament when they were asked to endorse” Matthews.

Moroney..

…said it was time for Matthews and Speaker of the House David Carter to talk.

“There are some decisions for Martin Matthews to make now around the integrity of the auditor-general’s office, but he’s the only one who can make those decisions. Well, it’s between him and the Speaker.”

Genter…

…said the fraud was “shocking” and added: “It is quite surprising that Martin Matthews has got the job as the auditor-general, given what happened under his watch at the Ministry of Transport.”

Peter Dunne says that there does need to be an investigation but shouldn’t need to stand down while that is done.

Matthews…

…said last night he stood by previous assertions that he had handled the saga decisively, and investigated it thoroughly.

Matthews has repeatedly said he stood by his handling of the case. He is overseas at a conference of auditors-general this week, and said he was unavailable to talk.

Bill English says he thinks that the situation has been dealt with, but it is a matter for the State Services Commission. He won’t comment further without more ‘clarity’.