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Auditor-general stood down

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 24/05/2017 Peter Wilson and Karen Sweeney

Auditor-General Martin Matthews has been stood down because of the way he handled the fraud case involving Joanne Harrison.

There will be a review to decide whether he continues in his role, parliament's Speaker David Carter has announced.

Mr Carter said the decision had been taken to ensure the integrity of the auditor-general's office.

Mr Matthews was the head of the Ministry of Transport when Harrison, who is now in jail, defrauded it of $720,000.

In recent days, political party leaders have expressed concern about why it took so long for her fraud to be detected, and why three whistleblowers were apparently ignored.

The whistleblowers believe they were made redundant because they tried to bring it out into the open.

The State Services Commission confirmed on Wednesday it would investigate their treatment.

Mr Carter said Mr Matthews wrote to him on Tuesday offering to stand down so a review could take place.

Deputy Auditor-General Greg Schollum will take over while the review takes place.

It will be carried out by Sir Maarten Wevers, a senior public servant.

The auditor-general is appointed by a parliamentary committee chaired by Mr Carter.

He made the stand down announcement after the committee met to discuss the situation surrounding Mr Matthews.

Following Mr Carter's announcement, Mr Matthews issued a statement saying he stood by the actions he took when he was head of the Ministry of Transport.

"I know that I acted appropriately, based on the information available to me at the time," he said.

"However, the current media coverage about these matters has the potential to undermine the important constitutional role of the Controller and Auditor-General."

Mr Matthews said he would make no further comment while the review was underway.

NZ First leader Winston Peters, who had previously demanded that Mr Matthews stand down, said he disagreed with the way it had been handled.

Mr Peters said his party wanted a full, independent inquiry.

"There is a big effort now to damage control the situation," he said.

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