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Fraud probe over missing $700k

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  • Fraud probe over missing $700k

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    A senior manager at the Ministry of Transport, Joanne Harrison, was sacked last week for allegedly stealing hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars. She's understood to have left New Zealand, possibly for Canada, after being accused of stealing money through false contracting arrangements.

    It's alleged Ms Harrison used false contracting arrangements to steal about $750,000 to $1 million after
    ministry management was reportedly alerted to the financial discrepancies earlier this year.

    Labour's transport spokesperson Sue Moroney says the public deserves to know about this and wants to know why Transport Minister Simon Bridges thinks it was alright to sweep this under the rug. Bridges said it was already in the hands of the Serious Fraud Office, and the Minister would have been well briefed before that occurred.

    The Ministry of Transport has confirmed its general manage of organisational development has been stood down over allegations of fraud. Harrison's time at the ministry was served largely under former chief executive Martin Matthews, who has since left and been replaced by Peter Mersi.​

    The Serious Fraud Office has confirmed that its launched an investigation, and Ms Harrison was sacked shortly afterwards. New Ministry of Transport head Peter Mersi said the staff member involved was in a position of "high trust" and the organisation had felt incredibly let down and betrayed by her actions.

    "I can confirm that, following investigations into allegations of significant breaches of the Code of Conduct by former staff member Joanne Harrison, a complaint has been laid with the Serious Fraud Office," Mersi said.
    "In light of what has happened, it is prudent to confirm that our systems, processes and controls are robust. To provide this assurance, a number of reviews are now under way. These focus on internal controls and recruitment processes."

    Harrison had worked at the ministry for several years and had been seen as a leader within the organisation - being appointed the general manager of organisational development for the team. She's now understood to have fled New Zealand, possibly for Canada.
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