SSC to probe Transport Ministry's treatment of whistleblowers

The SSC looks into the fate of former Ministry of Transport staffers who blew the whistle on fraudster.

The State Services Commission will investigate claims public servants lost their jobs after raising concerns about the actions of fraudster Joanne Harrison. a former general manager at the Ministry of Transport.

Commissioner Peter Hughes today said his office has appointed veteran civil servant Sandi Beatie to investigate separately to a Ministry of Transport review. Beatie will specifically look at whether any current or past employers were disadvantaged by raising concerns over Harrison's behaviour, and if so how that occurred, whether there should be a remedy, and to make any recommendations on protecting public sector whistleblowers.

"Public servants must be able to raise concerns without fear of punishment or reprisal," Hughes said. "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."

"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 Hughes.

Harrison was jailed earlier this year over the $726,000 fraud, which only came to light in 2016. The offending happened when newly appointed Auditor-General Martin Matthews was in charge of the ministry and has led to calls from some politicians for him to step down. Mr Matthews stood down as chief executive in July 2016, just days before news broke that Harrison had been stealing from the ministry before fleeing New Zealand for Canada.

Hughes today said the Controller and Auditor-General are outside the State Services Commissioner's jurisdiction and were the responsibility of the Speaker of the House, David Carter.

The Public Service Association welcomed the investigation, saying it will cooperate fully.


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