National Health Board chairman and former Treasury Secretary Murray Horn was a senior adviser at Mainzeal owner Richina as the firm looked to boost its construction activities in New Zealand and China.
Dr Horn, once described as Health Minister Tony Ryall’s handpicked “purchase adviser,” was appointed senior advisor for Richina on January 25, 2011, little more than a year after his appointment as NHB chair.
The revelation comes as fallout spreads from the shock receivership of Mainzeal Property and Construction, the country’s third largest construction firm.
Late this afternoon, Dr Horn confirmed to NBR ONLINE he was shoulder tapped by his old Harvard classmate and Richina founder Richard Yan to help out with a new business project, "outside of the property area."
However, Dr Horn says the business idea never got going so "we called it quits" and he resigned in October 2012, after nearly two years in the job.
Dr Horn says he realised there could be perceptions of conflicts of interest due to his position as NHB chairman.
"I was concerned about the link [with Mainzeal] so I resigned as chairman of the [NHB] capital investment committee and therefore removed myself from any decisions about capital projects in the health sector.
"I just wanted to remove any perceptions of conflict. That’s the long and the short of it really."
Dr Horn served in the New Zealand Treasury for 18 years, including four as chief executive from 1993-97.
In 2009 he chaired a ministerial review of the health system to help remove bureaucracy.
The Horn Report recommended the creation of the NHB to oversee the $9.7 billion the 21 district health boards spend each year on hospital and primary health care.
At the time the Labour party attacked Dr Horn’s appointment to the advisory board, saying the appointment "reeks of cronyism" and signalled a return to the hard-right policies of the 1990s.
"This is a classic case of jobs for the boys," state services spokesman Grant Robertson and health spokeswoman Ruth Dyson said in a joint statement.
"Murray Horn was Tony Ryall's `purchase adviser' who he then appointed to lead a ministerial review of the health system.
"This is an inside job and reflects badly on the transparency of the government."
Mainzeal’s construction activities included several large DHB contracts, including a $83m contract to redevelop Rotorua Hospital and a $16.5m contract for the phase one redevelopment of Bowen Hospital in Wellington.
Both these were announced in November 2009, a month after Mr Horn’s appointment as chairman of the NHB.
Mainzeal’s website also lists a number of other hospital contracts including work on Auckland’s Greenlane and Middlemore hospitals, while the Canterbury District Health Board has development projects with Mainzeal, including earthquake-strengthening at Hillmorton Hospital, and the extension and refurbishment of an in-patient unit.
It is not clear from public information when these contracts were awarded.
Dr Horn, who has held a number of senior positions with ANZ, is currently chairman of Telecom’s Audit and Risk Management Committee.