21 Nov 2017

Former MP warned health board over CEO

6:02 pm on 21 November 2017

Former Labour MP Sue Moroney says she warned the Waikato District Health Board (DHB) chairman about Nigel Murray before he was hired.

Waikato District Health Board Chief Executive Dr Nigel Murray.

Waikato District Health Board Chief Executive Dr Nigel Murray. Photo: RNZ/ Joanne O'Brien

The DHB is under intense scrutiny over spending on travel and expenses by its former chief executive.

Dr Murray spent $218,000 in three years at the DHB, before resigning under a deal with its board in early October.

Some of the spending and travel was unauthorised and the State Services Commission is set to investigate.

DHB chair Bob Simcock said yesterday he was not responsible for travel he had not been given information about.

But Ms Moroney told Checkpoint she warned Mr Simcock in 2014 not to employ Dr Murray, and he must take responsibility now.

Ms Moroney said she had been working in the health sector when Dr Murray was employed as the CEO of the Southland DHB and had "misgivings".

"I really recall the acrimonious negotiations that [Dr Murray] led over that period of time.

"And I also recalled that he had had quite a sudden departure from the Southland DHB that involved some concerns around the fact that the DHB thought he was overseas doing some work on their behalf and it transpired he was over there in a job interview for his next career prospects."

Ms Moroney said Mr Simcock had assured her that he would be "keeping a close eye" on Dr Murray but that he had "glowing" references.

"He said to me that he was convinced that Nigel Murray was the best person for the job... At that point we had to agree to disagree."

Meanwhile, DHB board member Dave Macpherson earlier said the health board stopped an investigation into the spending when Dr Murray resigned.

He said that should not have happened.

"There's a whole lot of questionable expenses in there, and I'm disappointed that we haven't continued the investigation, because I think Murray got off lightly so far."

Mr Simcock said yesterday the DHB signed the deal with Dr Murray on legal advice.

Gregor Coster, a former chair of the Counties Manukau and West Coast DHBs, also said there were unanswered questions.

"Did the chair actually approve this extended leave? Did he actually approve the associated expenses? I am very surprised as to how this unfolded - it looks like to me that the board and the chair have missed a beat here."

Professor Coster - now the head of the Faculty of Health at Victoria University - said the unauthorised spending at the DHB was unprecedented.

"The responsibility for approving leave and expense sits with the chair on behalf of the board. It appears to me that proper processes have not been followed here by either the chief executive or the chairman."

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