SSC to investigate Ministry of Transport treatment of staff who blew whistle on Joanne Harrison

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The State Services Commission is investigating the treatment of staff at the Ministry of Transport who raised concerns about the conduct of Joanne Harrison.

There are now claims staff were made redundant after they raised concerns about her conduct.
Source: 1 NEWS

There has been public concern that staff raised issues about Ms Harrison's activities within the Ministry and subsequently lost their jobs in a restructure Ms Harrison was involved in.

In February, Ms Harrison was jailed for three and a half years for stealing $726,000.

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes says public servants must be able to raise concerns without fear of punishment or reprisal.

"If Public Servants raised genuine concerns through proper channels and were then disadvantaged in any way because of it, that would be completely unacceptable and something I view very seriously," he said.

This morning Mr Hughes met with former Ministry of Transport staff members to discuss how they were treated and what happened after they raised concerns about Ms Harrison’s activities.

"The Secretary of Transport set up an independent review process for current or former staff to raise concerns about their treatment by Ms Harrison, which is entirely appropriate and I commend him for taking action to look into concerns from staff," Mr Hughes said.

"However, given the public interest in this matter and the importance of Public Servants being able to raise concerns without fear, this process needs to have the independence of the State Services Commission and the powers of investigation under the State Sector Act," said Mr Hughes.

The investigation will assess whether any Ministry of Transport staff members were disadvantaged after they raised concerns and if they were, make recommendations for an appropriate remedy.

Sandi Beatie QSO will carry out the investigation supported by the State Services Commission’s Chief Legal Officer and other SSC staff as required.

AUDITOR GENERAL'S HANDLING OF CASE TO BE LOOKED AT

Meanwhile, the Auditor General will be the subject of an urgent Parliamentary select committee.

Martin Matthews met with Parliament's speaker David Carter last night to discuss his handling of a fraud case at the Ministry of Transport.

Staffer Joanne Harrison was sentenced to three and a half years jail for stealing $726,000, under Mr Matthews' watch.

Harrison used fictitious invoices made out to three different entities, which had bank accounts in her name, and spent the money on personal credit cards and a Kiwibank home loan.

Labour MP Sue Moroney is concerned that Mr Matthews did not act when red flags were raised with him, while NZ First leader Winston Peters wants him to stand down.

The Offices of Parliament Committee, which signed off Mr Matthews appointment as Auditor General, will meet at 4pm today as the request of Labour leader Andrew Little.

A spokesman for Martin Matthews says he is aware of the recent claims and allegations about the decisions he made in relation to Joanne Harrison while Secretary for Transport.

"He regrets that these events took place under his watch and wishes he could have detected her criminal activity earlier."

The statement says Mr Matthews stands by the decisions he made, because "they were based on information available at the time".

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