29 Aug 2018

Former senior manager at DHB cleared of fraudulent activity

4:11 pm on 29 August 2018

A senior manager at Hawke's Bay District Health Board who resigned following an investigation into misappropriated funds, has been cleared of any wider fraudulent activity.

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A senior manager at Hawke's Bay District Health Board left following an investigation into the use of funds collected from a Māori Health whare. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Former executive director of strategy and health improvement Tracee Te Huia left the DHB in January, following an investigation into the use of funds collected from a Māori Health whare - which included thousands of dollars of unexplained transactions.

Ms Te Huia, who often filled in as acting chief executive, resigned after accepting responsibility for poor management practices.

A further review into her entire budget, presented to the DHB's finance committee this morning, found there was no evidence that Ms Te Huia misappropriated funds for direct personal gain.

But it found a number of low level breaches of the health board's policies, including a failure to properly document expenditure.

Health Board chief executive Kevin Snee said he was pleased this separate review of Ms Te Huia's budget was now over, and showed that for the most part the DHB's policies were followed.

"We have spent considerable time investigating this. There are lessons to be learnt and while there weren't as many concerning failings as the original whare investigation uncovered, our staff must have front of mind that they are spending taxpayer's money," Mr Snee said.

"It must be spent wisely, with full accountability and follow the appropriate policy and procedures that are in place for good reason."

The second investigation reviewed 136 payments and found koha given above the $200 sensitive expenditure threshold, did not follow the approved process.

There were also "excessive" international mobile roaming charges made by four staff totalling $2677, and there were withdrawals of cash, and purchases of gift and petrol vouchers that were approved, but no transparent tracking of their use.

Hawke's Bay District Health Board CEO Kevin Snee

Hawke's Bay District Health Board CEO Kevin Snee Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

In a written response to the DHB, Ms Te Huia said she was "grateful" to be have been exonerated by the review, but questioned why it was needed.

"Whilst I have been exonerated and I am grateful for that, the motive behind extending the review scope to include minor managerial practices not connected to the missing money is questionable," she wrote.

"It is as if there is a continuing smear campaign to prejudice my future employment opportunities bordering on a type of personal hate campaign against me. I find this incredibly spiteful.

"I do not deserve this kind of treatment - no-one does. It is plain unfair."

Ms Te Huia told RNZ she regretted resigning and was considering her next steps.

"When the DHB found money had gone missing over a nine-month period I resigned to protect the DHB," she said.

"The findings are low level according to the report and doesn't warrant me leaving. I deeply regret resigning now. I provided a good service to the DHB and the community and had I stayed I would have continued this great work."

Dr Snee said Ms Te Huia had been treated in a fair way.

"Ms Te Huia has been treated very fairly by the organisation and I hope she has learned some lessons from the experience and hopefully she'll be able to move on now," he said.