Auditor General resigns ahead of Transport Ministry fraud report

Martin Matthews said the "issues and speculation about how I handled matters" had made it untenable for him to continue.

Auditor-General Martin Matthews has resigned before the release of a report into his handling of a major fraud case when he led the Transport Ministry.

In a statement, Matthews said the "issues and speculation about how I handled matters" had made it untenable for him to continue in the role, from which he had stepped aside in May while an independent investigation was carried out.

Fraudster Joanne Harrison was jailed for three and a half years earlier this year over the $726,000 fraud, which only came to light in 2016. Senior public servant Sir Maarten Wevers was asked to review Matthews's position, with that report delivered to the Offices of Parliament Committee and Matthews last week. It is due to be released to the public at 2pm today.

Matthews said that until April 2016 he had regarded Harrison as "an able and high performing member of the leadership team. I believe I acted swiftly and thoroughly to detect the fraud and bring her to justice when I became aware of her potential wrong doing. I wish that I had detected her criminal activity much earlier."

"The information I received caused me to re-examine decisions I had made regarding matters previously raised with me in relation to some internal business procedures. I thought I had dealt with those appropriately, with the knowledge and information I had at the time. She gave me explanations that I accepted. It turns out I was wrong. I should have been more suspicious. The subsequent enquiries and investigations I initiated revealed she had committed a major fraud against the ministry and the taxpayer.

"I have resigned as Auditor-General because I understand the expectations associated with this role are high. It is important to me, and to the office, that the public has complete confidence in the person holding the position of Auditor-General.

Matthews said he would not make any further comment.

A parallel State Services Commission report, released last month, identified four staff who had acted as whistleblowers against Harrison whose careers at the ministry had been negatively affected by actions Harrison took subsequent to their complaints, leading to apologies and confidential settlements.

(BusinessDesk)

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