9 May 2019

Auditors probe NZTA's hi-tech business unit

9:43 am on 9 May 2019

The investigation and subsequent reports were completed by Deloitte under a process that was subsequently found to be inadequate and as a consequence NZTA no longer stands by the findings of those reports — which have been removed from NZTA’s website.  NZTA has also apologised to the manager who was the subject of the reports.

The Transport Agency has called in outside auditors to look at "a range of concerns" at a key high-tech unit.

analyzing the work Accounting on Laptop  investment concept.

NZTA has called in the auditors to look at the management and activities of a business unit, after concerns were raised initially by the Ministry of Transport. Photo: 123RF

The investigation by Deloitte into the unit began in March. The unit's director since December 2016 resigned on 19 March.

The former manager said he had not known or been told an inquiry was underway, but that it would find everything was above board. There was no connection between the review and his resignation, he said.

"All projects… were subject to the normal NZTA business case processes, reviews and were all approved by the relevant committees," he told RNZ.

The agency said it had "identified a range of concerns" with the "historical" management, governance and activities of the business unit, and then called in Deloitte.

But this was after the Ministry of Transport got involved. The ministry said it began asking NZTA about the business unit last December, then in March raised concerns with the agency's board about how the unit was being run.

An independent performance review of NZTA last year said the business unit had a lot of capability in looking into the future, and that its type of thinking "needs to infuse the whole agency".

An internal investigation in 2018 concluded there was no evidence that the former manager had an improper relationship or beneficial interest in two private technology companies, the agency told RNZ.

"It's very easy to chuck mud at people," the former manager told RNZ. "Frankly, I have been going through this for the last three years, with people making accusations."

Some staff resented approach

He put that down to some staff resenting his role, which was disruptive of old ways of doing things.

"I have got no issues around my integrity. Everything I have done, I have always done with the best of public good. I have grown a team ... we did some great things."

The type of review Deloitte was doing was "common" and he supported it, he said.

A long-time friend of the former manager won a contract to service an NZTA safety app which won a top award in 2015 but was dumped by the agency late last year.

The former manager said he left the agency because it was shifting direction away from technological solutions, after the regulatory scandal toppled chief executive Fergus Gammie and led to board and internal ructions.

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