Auditor General Matthews stood down

Venkat Raman 

New Zealand First Party Leader Winston Peters could justifiably take credit for forcing Parliamentary Speaker David Carter to suggest that Controller & Auditor General (C&AG) Martin Matthews should step down pending an independent inquiry into his appointment.

Mr Carter announced on May 24 following a meeting of an All-Party Committee that appointed Mr Matthew that a review of the appointment of Mr Matthew would be completed within a fortnight.

The Problem

The controversy arose after Mr Peters and the media questioned the suitability of Mr Matthews in his current role since he was the Secretary of the Ministry of Transport when a large-scale fraud was perpetrated by Joanne Harrison, a senior manager at that time.

Mr Matthews took charge as C&AG on February 1, 2017 on a seven-year term, following the retirement of Lyn Provost.

Mr Peters was persistent in his demand.

The Statement

Mr Matthews said on May 24, 2017 that he had written to Mr Carter to have an independent person to review his suitability for the role of C&AG.

“I stand by the actions I took when Secretary for Transport and know that I acted appropriately based on the information available to me at the time. However, the current media coverage about these matters has the potential to undermine the constitutional role of the C&AG,” he said.

Harrison fraud

Ms Harrison was sentenced in February to three years and seven months in prison for stealing $723,000 from the Transport Ministry.

She also tricked another government agency into hiring her husband, and got a job for a friend who was on the Ministry’s payroll for 10 months but never turned up or did any work.

Mr Matthews has said he regretted that Harrison’s fraud occurred under his watch and     wished he had detected it earlier.

Separately, the State Services Commission is taking over the investigation into the treatment of whistle-blowers at the Ministry who raised red flags about Harrison.

Former employees went public this week with concerns they were forced out of their jobs after speaking up about Harrison.

The Ministry launched its own investigation into those claims last week.

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