3 Nov 2017

Waikato DHB refuses to release spending report

4:52 pm on 3 November 2017

The former Waikato District Health Board chief racked up a $218,000 expenses bill during his time at the DHB.

Waikato District Health Board Chief Executive Dr Nigel Murray.

Ex-Waikato District Health Board chief executive Nigel Murray. Photo: RNZ/ Joanne O'Brien

The DHB released the details of Nigel Murray's spending today, but is refusing to disclose details of a full investigation into his spending.

The Ministry of Health has announced it has asked the State Services Commission to investigate the spending.

Dr Murray resigned early last month amid a growing row over his expenses since joining the DHB in mid-2014.

In the last financial year, Dr Murray had expenses of $91,500.

In the 2015/16 financial year, he spent $45,700.

In his first year on the job, he spent $80,900, which included $50,000 in relocation costs - double the amount that had been agreed to help Dr Murray relocate to New Zealand for the position.

The DHB has not explicitly said how much of Dr Murray's spending was unauthorised, although it does intent to recover all unauthorised amounts charged to the DHB.

So far, Dr Murray has repaid $30,000. The remaining amount to be repaid would be made public in time, but the DHB said it was less than $50,000.

The DHB has refused to release a draft report from an investigation into Dr Murray's spending.

It said the report did not take into account Dr Murray's views and it would encroach on his privacy.

Health Minister David Clark has directed the State Services Commissioner (SSC) to launch an investigation into the wrongful expenditure.

The SSC will investigate:

  • The circumstances of any alleged unauthorised or unjustified expenditure by Dr Murray of DHB funds.
  • Any related or similar conduct by Dr Murray or any related person identified during the course of its inquiry.
  • Any processes undertaken or decisions made by the DHB relating to any matters identified in the above.

"I have written to Commissioner Peter Hughes today to request this action because such issues or allegations, especially relating to senior leaders in the public sector, risk damaging confidence in the public sector," Dr Clark said.

"It is critical that transparency in and accountability for these processes and outcomes is maintained."

"I expect that this investigation may involve considering whether appropriate standards of integrity and conduct have been maintained by Dr Murray and the DHB," Dr Clark said.

Claims made on airfares, accom and meals

The DHB's updated official disclosure of chief executive expenses for the 2016/17 financial year shows Dr Murray had tried to claim three overseas trips for "professional development and completion of research project".

He had claimed airfares, accommodation, meals, car hire and parking costs.

But none of the travel request forms to these trips were signed and authorised by the board's chair, as required.

The cost of these trips is not included in the total amount of travel expenses in the disclosure information - instead $0.00 is listed beside each of them.

Receipts and other information released by the DHB indicate the three trips cost about $30,000 all up.

A handwritten note at the top of one of the forms reads: "travel booked by Nigel".

The disclosure also showed the DHB has requested more information about the reason for five domestic trips Dr Murray made in the 2016/17 financial year.

Although the DHB has not said how much of Dr Murray's spending was unauthorised, the difference between the total amount spent by him - $218,000 - and the totals included in the official disclosures is just over $70,000.


  • 7 June, 2017 - Senior staff alerted the DHB chair, Bob Simcock, to concerns they had about Dr Murray's charging of expenses to the DHB.
  • 12 June - Chair informed the Director-General of Health and the Office of the Minister of Health about the concerns raised.
  • July - Board decides on an independent investigation. A specialist barrister was appointed in August to oversee this.
  • 22 September - As part of the ongoing investigation, the barrister conducting the investigation presented Dr Murray with a draft report which included proposed findings and sought his response.
  • 29 September - The board's Remuneration Committee met with legal counsel in attendance, and was informed that Dr Murray had made an offer of resignation. Legal counsel briefed the committee on the content of the investigator's draft report. The committee recommended that the full board accept Dr Murray's offer of resignation with immediate effect, on the basis that he agreed to repay all outstanding amounts.
  • 5 October - A special meeting of the board agreed to accept Dr Murray's offer of resignation.
  • 3 November - DHB releases more spending details, new Health Minister David Clark orders an investigation by SSC