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Please explain PM: Top watchdog writes to Ardern after Sharma claims, secretly taped MP says minister dismissed issue of wellbeing

Newshub logo Newshub 19/08/2022 Jenna Lynch
Dr Sharma is going out with a bang. © Video - Newshub; Image - Getty Images. Dr Sharma is going out with a bang.

Please explain, Prime Minister.

Newshub can reveal the Chief Ombudsman has written to the Prime Minister seeking assurances her Government understands its transparency obligations.

It follows explosive claims made by rebel MP Dr Gaurav Sharma in an exclusive interview with Newshub on Thursday night. 

His days numbered, and Dr Sharma is going out with a bang. He's promising he won't go down without a fight. 

After releasing a secret recording of one of his colleagues and launching more grenades at his party in an exclusive interview with Newshub, Labour is considering expelling Dr Sharma.

On Friday morning, he doubled down, doing a full round of interviews detailing how he was allegedly bullied by Kieran McAnulty and the other Labour whips.

"They would literally just shout at me and keep shouting for minutes and hours. They would invite me to a meeting, cancel the meeting," he said.

But McAnulty told AM he is "not one for raising my voice". 

"If anything, if I get wound up, I go quieter, so no I do not agree with that assessment at all."

But potentially Dr Sharma's biggest accusation is Labour's alleged culture of cover-ups. 

He says MPs were taught how to avoid scrutiny via the Official Information Act or OIA - a piece of law that allows the media and the public to access official information held by the Government. 

"When they want to prevent OIA they just sort of make it that this is Labour leader's problem, this is not the PM's office problem and then they can get away with it," Dr Sharma said. 

Please explain PM: Top watchdog writes to Ardern after Sharma claims, secretly taped MP says minister dismissed issue of wellbeing
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Newshub can reveal the Ombudsman - who oversees compliance of the Act - has issued a please explain to the Prime Minister. 

In a statement, Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier said: "I am aware of the allegations made by Dr Sharma about the workshop advice and training given to Labour MPs on the Official Information Act.

"I have written to the Prime Minister to seek her assurance that she, along with her Ministers, MPs and staff understand their obligations under the OIA and apply the right processes when handling official information and responding to requests."

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister told Newshub she will respond to confirm the Government understands and acts in accordance with the OIA, and supports MPs to understand their obligations as well.

"Since 2016, when the Public Service Commission started collecting OIA data, there has been an overall improvement in OIA requests being completed on time - despite a 110 percent increase in the volume of requests during the same period," the spokesperson for the Prime Minister said.

"In June 2016, 91.1 percent of OIAs were completed on time compared with 97.3 percent today and just 0.15 percent of all OIA responses result in a finding of deficiency by the Ombudsman."

They added the Government's work to improve the release and transparency of official information includes proactively releasing Cabinet papers and ministerial diaries, and it has legislated to require the Public Service to foster a culture of open government.

Dr Sharma claims he has six Labour MPs who back him, including one who called him to warn him his fate had been predetermined at Labour's secret pre-caucus hui last Monday.

He recorded the 55-minute call and leaked it to Newshub. 

"I think they want to tread carefully around your wellbeing issues, although Jacinda said, 'oh well he said to me he's fine'."

According to that MP, when another party member raised the issue of Dr Sharma's wellbeing, a Cabinet minister said: "No, there's no wellbeing around this."

Dr Sharma told Newshub he is doing fine. 

"As I've said, I've slept better than I have in the last one-and-a-half years, because I know now the public is listening."

Next week, Labour's caucus will meet to vote on expelling Dr Sharma, but the MP suggested he could gazump them - by going it alone.

 "Cause you could say, 'F*** you guys, I'm going to resign as a Labour MP and I'll just be an independent MP', you could be a real thorn in their side."

It's still an option available to Dr Sharma.

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