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Fraudster 'got rid of whistleblowers'

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 9/03/2017

Convicted fraudster Joanne Harrison was involved in a financial restructuring of the Ministry of Transport while she was fleecing it of more than $700,000, it has been revealed.

The details emerged at a select committee hearing in parliament on Thursday, and a Labour MP is calling for an investigation.

Sue Moroney says senior officials accepted that the restructuring resulted in people who had tried to blow the whistle on Harrison losing their jobs.

"I am calling for an investigation into the three staff made redundant in order to restore faith and confidence for public servants that they will be safe when they do the right thing by raising the alarm about fraudulent behaviour," she said.

"The ministry has argued that she was `very premeditated' in her crimes but this doesn't answer why, in spite of eight warnings, she was never stopped until the auditor-general's office became involved."

Ms Moroney says she finds it incredible that Harrison had a financial delegation of up to $100,000 but never went through a police or justice check.

"If the ministry had bothered to do a police check they would have discovered that police in Victoria were in contact with New Zealand police about a fraud investigation they were conducting into Harrison."

Transport Minister Simon Bridges told reporters Harrison was "an incredibly dishonest individual" and suggested she would have got away with what she did in any government department.

"She was able, at each turn, to come up with what seemed at the time to be reasonable explanations," he said.

"Improvements have been identified through independent reviews, I absolutely expect the ministry will implement those recommendations."

Harrison was last month jailed for three years and seven months.

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