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DoC sought legal advice over MoT fraudster

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 23/05/2017 Karen Sweeney

The Department of Conservation sought legal advice after discovering jailed former government staffer Joanne Harrison was committing fraud while carrying out an independent investigation for them.

Ms Harrison was jailed for three and a half years in February after it was revealed she had scammed the Ministry of Transport out of $726,000.

Just months before she was charged, in August last year, Ms Harrison was investigating an "employment matter" within the Department of Conservation, a spokeswoman confirmed on Tuesday.

The department sought external legal advice and say they are confident the investigation process was robust.

"Ms Harrison was part of a two-person investigation team, along with a senior independent lawyer, neither of whom played the 'lead' role in the investigation," she said.

"Ms Harrison was unable to conclude the investigation, so the final report was completed and submitted by the other investigator."

NZ First leader Winston Peters told the NZ Herald Ms Harrison's involvement in the investigation "taints every finding, recommendation, and outcome DoC took".

DoC said the final report, which included Ms Harrison's name, set out the issues of fact and investigator findings.

Further action was determined by the department's internal decision maker, and no dismissals occurred as a result.

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