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Waikato DHB responds to SSC report

WaikatoDHB

Waikato DHB has welcomed the State Services Commission report into unauthorised and unjustified spending by its former chief executive Dr Nigel Murray. You can read the report here 

Acting chair Sally Webb said the report identified that Dr Murray’s conduct fell well short of that required by a state sector leader and was completely unacceptable.

“As public servants we have a duty to spend public money wisely and to follow correct policies and procedures when travelling on DHB business. Clearly Dr Murray routinely breached our DHB policies and let the health board, the Waikato community and the former chair down very badly.”

She said the report identified that the DHB’s policies and procedures were good but that they weren’t followed and that Waikato DHB had already put processes in place to ensure its policies were now complied with.

“We’ve taken steps to ensure that this sort of behavior can never happen again at Waikato DHB. Audit NZ reviewed our processes for expenses, including those of the chief executive, in November last year and made a number of recommendations that we have already actioned.

“These include communicating the policies regularly to staff and ensuring they understand them, then actively monitoring that they are complying with these policies. We make sure that the business purpose for travel is clearly set out in the requests and the appropriate documentation is provided to support the request.

“Chief executive and all executive director expenses are all now reported to the Board monthly and I approve all the chief executive’s travel requests in advance and they all need to include clear business reasons for travel.”

She said the report identified that the DHB’s recruitment process was good but the reference checks were not thorough and didn’t include his current employer. “Had they done so, it would have raised a red flag with us.”

She said the report had learnings for all DHBs in how they recruit and manage chief executives, and how they ensure all expenditure goes through the correct approvals and is use appropriately.

“This is one man, out of a staff of 7,000, who was a bad apple, did not meet the high standards we would expect from a chief executive and has damaged the reputation of our DHB, but is not indicative of how the many hard working and committed staff in our organisation behave.”

Ms Webb said the Board made the decision to accept Dr Murray’s immediate resignation and have him pay back all outstanding money that he owed, rather than sack him, to avoid being faced with further costs and potential lengthy litigation.

“We weighed up many factors in coming to this decision but decided the ongoing costs to the organisation not only financial but also in the amount of time we would spend on this, were outweighed by the need to move on and focus on delivering health services to our population.

Ms Webb praised the staff who blew the whistle on Dr Murray’s unauthorised spending. “I’m really pleased that the report acknowledged the courage of DHB staff, who made repeated efforts to bring the issue of overspending and spending outside policy to Dr Murray’s attention, before escalating their concerns to the chair,” she said.

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