16 May 2017

Transport Ministry does U-turn on staff concerns about fraud

From Morning Report, 6:09 am on 16 May 2017

The jailed fraudster Joanne Harrison got a friend a job at the Transport Ministry, but they never turned up or did any work, documents reveal.

The friend spent 10 months on the payroll, and the ministry is now chasing them to try to recover the cash.

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Photo: 123rf

The new aspect of the fraud has been revealed as the ministry released hundreds of pages of documents showing exactly how Harrison went about stealing nearly $170,000 directly, and got family and friends government sector jobs.

They show that after Harrison was finally stood down in April 2016 and banned from the premises. She then asked her associate to enter her office and obtain items on 25 April, Anzac Day.

However, the associate was unsuccessful in gaining entry and was caught on security footage.

On 29 April, the then chief executive Martin Matthews wrote to the associate saying that they had been in two roles since July 2015.

"You never report to the office and there is no evidence of you doing any work for us," he wrote.

"Please contact me urgently ... with a full explanation as to what work you have done ... and what you have done with the money you have been paid."

For several months the media has been uncovering further aspects of Harrison's fraud, and reporting the concerns of Labour MP Sue Moroney that Harrison was able to have whistle-blowing staff restructured out of the organisation.

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Photo: RNZ/ Rebekah Parsons-King

The Labour Party said the new revelations raised further questions about the Ministry of Transport's handling of the case.

Labour transport spokesperson Sue Moroney said the ministry still had not given a proper explanation of how she managed to get away with it for so long, despite numerous warnings.

Ms Moroney said she would normally ask the Auditor-General Martin Matthews to investigate, but in this case he was the chief executive of the Ministry at the time Harrison committed her crimes.

"It is a really important question for the public to think about. The fact that the CEO at the time has subsequently been appointed to the auditor general, that's an issue about the status of that office."