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Boss who hired Ministry of Transport $726,000 fraudster 'not embarrassed'

The man who hired a woman jailed today for nearly four years for stealing almost $726,000 of taxpayer money when she worked at the Ministry of Transport says he's not embarrassed by what happened and proud of bringing her to justice.

Joanne Harrison's fraud was first revealed by 1 NEWS last year.

Harrison, also known as Joanne Sidebottom and Joanne Sharp, stole by using fake invoices to bill fake companies when she worked at the Ministry of Transport. 

In Manukau District Court today, Judge Sanjay Patel sentenced her to 43 months imprisonment on three charges to which she pleaded guilty.

And it's not the first time Harrison had committed fraud.

"Ms Harrison has previous convictions for similar offending. In July 2007 she was sentenced to undertake 300 hours of community work," Judge Patel said.

Martin Matthews, now the Auditor-General, was the Ministry of Transport's chief executive who hired Harrison.

Asked  by 1 NEWS is he embarrassed by what happened, Mr Matthews said: "I regret clearly that this occurred under my watch. But I'm not embarrassed. I'm proud of the action I took to ensure that we were successful in bringing her to justice".

Mr Matthews says he received a tip-off about Harrison and launched an internal audit.

The Serious Fraud Office was called in and Harrison fled to Canada.

The court heard how Harrison used the money to pay off her credit cards and her mortgage, and while in Canada transferred the house into her husband's name.

Harrison is now undertaking counselling in prison and through her lawyer says she's truly remorseful.

Labour MP Sue Moroney says Harrison's previous convictions raise questions.

"She has been convicted for fraud-related offences in 2007. So that begs the question about why the Ministry of Transport didn't know about that conviction," Ms Moroney said.

The Ministry of Transport refused to comment, saying it's still reviewing its recruitment of staff but that it will keep chasing Joanne Harrison for the money she stole.

Joanne Harrison has been jailed for nearly four years for stealing more than $700k of taxpayers' money. Source: 1 NEWS