9 Aug 2017

MP fought 'Wgtn mafia' over Auditor-General's appointment

2:01 pm on 9 August 2017

Outgoing Labour MP Sue Moroney has used her valedictory speech to call on Parliament's speaker to release the report which led to the resignation of the Auditor-General.

Sue Moroney and Martin Matthews

Sue Moroney and Martin Matthews Photo: RNZ

Martin Matthews resigned last week after being given a report understood to be highly critical of his handling of a major fraud case when he was chief executive of the Transport Ministry.

During his time there Joanne Harrison, a senior manager, stole nearly $750,000.

Parliament's Speaker David Carter says the public don't have the right to know what's in the report and that the Offices of Parliament committee - which includes members of all parliamentary parties but two, who were also consulted - was unanimous it shouldn't be released.

In her valedictory speech at Parliament last night, Labour MP Sue Moroney, who originally revealed the fraud, called on Mr Carter to release the report.

Ms Moroney said while Harrison had wrecked many lives, she didn't want the next reputation she wrecked to be Parliament's.

"My advice to future Parliaments is simple - if you have to go to the Serious Fraud Office to satisfy yourselves about the person you're about to appoint as Auditor-General, then they are almost certainly the wrong person for the job."

Ms Moroney said she'd had to fight the "old boys network and the Wellington mafia over the Auditor-General's appointment".

Former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer said the public deserved a better explanation for why the report was not being made public.

Sir Geoffrey said the role of the Office of the Auditor-General was extremely important and it was not clear exactly why he resigned.

"No one is suggesting that Mr Matthews himself was guilty of any impropriety, what is at issue here is whether his judgement about how he handled this matter when he was at the Ministry of Transport was faulty.

"And the inference I draw from this report is that the Committee decided that it must have been because they went back on the decision they made at the time of the appointment and thought now there were grounds to remove him - well, I just have this feeling of unease about that."

He told RNZ the public probably did not understand the enormous strain the issue must have put on Mr Matthews.

"He was an experienced, high-ranking public servant who had performed very well in a number of roles and this must have been a deeply harrowing and depressing experience for him to go through, and put a lot of pain on him and his family," he said.