Labour questions Ministry’s appointment of fraudster

Joanne Harrison appeared in the Manukau District Court on February 21, 2017 and received a sentence of imprisonment of three years and seven months in relation to a fraud committed during her employment at the Transport Ministry.

The former General Manager of Organisational Development pleaded guilty in November to Crimes Act charges of ‘Dishonestly taking or using a document’ laid by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

Joanne Harrison worked for the Ministry of Transport from April 2011 until her employment was terminated in 2016.

Her role included responsibility for change, people and development; communication and external relations; administration and ministerial support; knowledge management and information and the shares services programme management.

Following questions raised by the Transport Ministry’s management team, an internal investigation found that suspicious payments had been made to various entities and the matter was referred to the SFO.

The SFO found that Ms Harrison and entities associated with her obtained approximately $726,000 from the Ministry.

SFO Director Julie Read said, “The SFO gives a priority to cases concerning the loss of public money as this affects not only the government entity concerned but all New Zealanders.”

Labour Party comments

Labour Party Transport Spokesperson Sue Moroney said that it was a matter of concern that fraudster Joanne Harrison was hired by the Ministry despite a previous conviction.

“At today’s sentencing of the former Ministry’s senior manager, Judge Sanjay Patel made it clear that Harrison had been charged with fraud related matters in 2007. She was hired by the Ministry of Transport in 2011.

“I question how the Transport Ministry that employed and then promoted her to a senior manager’s role with a high financial threshold delegation, without discovering any of these concerns about her. Minister Simon Bridges knew about this in April 2016 but did not inform the Prime Minister until July 20, 2016, just before I raised the case after being approached by a whistle-blower. I passed this information on to the SFO,” she said.

Ms Moroney said that it also emerged in the summing up that Harrison had started offending in the year before she was made a senior manager and given wide financial delegations.

“It’s satisfying to see that Harrison had to return to New Zealand to face the charges. However, the Judge also noted that the full sum of money that has been lost, may never be recovered. New Zealand’s taxpayers need to be assured that the same mistakes won’t be made again,” Ms Moroney said.

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