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:

“The giant transport money-go-round”

PartisanZ posted a comment yesterday about New Zealand’s “giant transport money-go-round” regarding transport funding and spending. This is worth more exposure here.


In the Winter 2016 edition of ‘AA Directions’ magazine there’s an excellent article “Taxing Truths” by Peter King about “the giant transport money-go-round”, with additional information & stats by Mark Stockdale.

While “the numbers are enormous”, as they say – $10bn allocated from vehicle taxes + $3.9bn from rates revenue June 2015 – June 2018 – an MoT survey shows “79% of trip choices and travelling time is either driving or riding in a motor vehicle.” Walking comprises 17%, public transport 2.8% and cycling 1.2%.

Our spend-up is not extravagant by international standards. Of 48 nations in the international transport forum, NZ’s spend as a proportion of our economy is 46th.

The stats regarding funding sources are fascinating to me. Public Transport Users = $320m, Tax Payers $460m, Rate Payers $1.6bn and Motorists $3bn. Of the Motorists contribution, Rego = $183m, while Petrol Tax – which makes up $1.00 of a litre of petrol costing $2.00 – total = $1.6bn. Around 65% of this goes to the National Land Transport Fund.

As the owner of a ‘Light Diesel’, what strikes me as a possible ‘funding source’ discrepancy is RUC’s at $410m for Light Vehicles and only $790m for Heavy Vehicles? I believe heavy vehicles do more than twice the damage to our roads? If the U.S. data is relevant this is true – “Jun 2, 2009 – Freight trucks cause 99% of wear-and-tear on US roads, but only pay for 35% of the maintenance.”

https://truecostblog.com/2009/06/02/the-hidden-trucking-industry-subsidy/

And an exhaustive NZ study pdf, which seems to support the idea – e.g. axle passes – although I haven’t read it carefully – (80 pages) –

https://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/resources/research/reports/281/docs/281.pdf

The spend is also interesting – Roads (includes footpaths and bus lanes) = $3.546bn, Public Transport = $1.61bn, Policing and Education = $390m and Walking & Cycling = $27m
So public transport’s spend clearly outweighs its preferred usage, although perhaps it must be offset by whatever reductions are achieved in fuel consumption, congestion and pollution?

The article is spiked with comments from politicians, ranging from National’s Simon Bridges, “We’re focused on enabling economic growth rather than simply responding to it.” through Labour’s Sue Moroney, “… this doesn’t look like a winning strategy to me. NZ needs a smart, integrated transport system to get things moving.” to The Green’s Julie Anne Genter, ” … National … putting up fuel taxes to pay for a few eye wateringly expensive highway projects, which will actually make congestion worse, and lock people into paying higher fuel taxes … if they spent the same amount on public transport and rail and sea for freight, the roads would be safer … and we’d have a world-class transport system.”

Finally, three examples of ‘typical’ annual contributions. A family of 5 in Auckland with 2 vehicles, own home = $2,621.51, a Uni Student in Wellington, renting, who uses PT and owns a scooter = $290.77, and a retired couple in Nelson, own home, with one vehicle + PT = $873.98

King finishes well IMHO, “But this huge money-go-round is going to have to change … the future is electric … any solution will require robust discussion about who pays for what and who gets subsidised by whom.”

Drive safely everyone …


PartisanZ added:

Major changes coming in the transport realm though. Fuel tax has apparently been rising partly (or mostly?) as a result of increased fuel economy? As vehicles become electric and to a lesser extent hybrid this form of funding – and tax increase – will be impossible to justify.

I wonder what people think the possible solutions are? Cheaper fuel and more Local Govt road tax? Toll roads? Some kind of combined registration and RUC’s for all vehicles? The technology exists to do almost anything nowadays …

Dave1924:

I am interested that the authors have picked a win with the statement that the future is electric. I would have thought hydrogen power cars might be a significant contender..

The amount of tax on a litre of petrol is truly eye watering and is incredibly regressive have a disproportionate impact on the poor segments of society.

PartisanZ:

Yes, both hydrogen powered – with the hydrogen produced elsewhere – and perhaps water-powered, where water is converted to HHO or “Brown’s Gas” onboard? [I know almost nothing about the chemistry or technology – I’m not that way inclined].

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxyhydrogen#Brown.27s_Gas

http://www.nlcpr.com/Deceptions10.php – claims “Water4Gas HHO and Brown’s gas are frauds and scams”

Brown Gas Generator – Alibaba
http://www.alibaba.com › … › generator › gas generator

Other more sustainable options should be competing with electricity in a so-called ‘free market’, although both access to water and electricity production surely have their environmental and geopolitical implications too?

Years ago I read a tiny news item in the Herald or Star about a Kiwi man arrested at Auckland airport trying to leave the country carrying trade secrets. He apparently worked for a company which produced and sold welding equipment based on Brown’s Gas – or similar – where the one set of equipment could do all forms of welding? [My remembered details are sketchy]. The same technology could apparently be applied to an internal combustion engine with very few modifications?

patupaiarehe:

Might have been something like this PZ http://watertorch.com/

Or maybe this, which looks a little more crediblehttp://www.safeflameproject.eu/technology/

My understanding is that they are just very efficient electrolysers. Instead of using a constant DC power source, like we did at school, they use electronics to deliver pulsed DC at just the right frequency.

As for powering a car with one, well you would need a big battery that you would still have to charge from an outside source.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservation_of_energy

A little further reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resonance