21 Feb 2017

Former senior ministry official jailed for $723k fraud

7:14 pm on 21 February 2017

A woman who defrauded the Ministry of Transport of over $700,000 has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

Joanne Harrison was stood down from her senior role within the ministry in April last year, when the fraud was discovered.

A Serious Fraud Office investigation found she used invoices to pay entities linked to her and defraud the Crown of $723,000.

Harrison, who was sentenced today in the Manukau District Court, pleaded guilty in November to three representative charges of dishonestly using a document.

Serious Fraud Office prosecutor Sarah Allen said Harrison paid off her $364,000 mortgage during the four years of offending.

Ms Allen told the court Harrison then transferred ownership of the property to her husband so it could not be used for reparation.

Judge Sanjay Patel sentenced Harrison to 43 months in prison, taking her guilty plea and remorse into consideration.

However, he said the offending was premeditated and calculated and noted she had been convicted for similar offences before.

"I am taking your remorse at face value. I hope you are genuine and that you use your time in prison constructively."

Labour questions hiring process

Labour transport spokesperson Sue Moroney said it was concerning the Ministry of Transport hired Harrison despite her previous conviction.

She said Harrison had been charged with fraud-related matters in 2007, before she was hired by the ministry in 2011.

"I question how the Ministry of Transport employed her and then promoted her to a senior manager's role with a high financial threshold delegation, without discovering any of these concerns about her," Ms Moroney said.

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