By: Natalie Akoorie

Nigel Murray’s spending has prompted three investigations and two inquiries so far. Photo / Christine Cornege

The Auditor-General is making inquiries into the $15 million virtual health platform purchased by the Waikato District Health Board.

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes announced yesterday he has formally requested the Auditor-General conduct an inquiry into the DHB’s SmartHealth product and the procurement of HealthTap.

A spokesman for the Office of the Auditor-General confirmed it was already making a preliminary inquiry into the case.

It is the latest development in the Commissioner’s investigation, being undertaken at the direction of Health Minister David Clark, into allegations of wrongful spending of public money by former chief executive Dr Nigel Murray.

Waikato DHB interim chief executive Derek Wright said the DHB welcomed any investigation by the Auditor-General and wanted to learn lessons from past conduct.

Murray resigned in October amid an expenses scandal after spending $218,000 of taxpayers’ money during his three years in the job.

His expenses prompted three investigations, including an incomplete one by the DHB, a damning one by Audit NZ – and one by the SSC which is ongoing.

On Tuesday the Serious Fraud Office confirmed it was making preliminary inquiries into the case, the same day board chairman Bob Simcock resigned following criticisms of his oversight of Murray’s expenses.

Yesterday the Herald revealed former Labour MP Sue Moroney had lodged an official complaint with the SFO.

It came only hours before the Office of the Auditor-General confirmed it was also making preliminary inquiries into the purchase of HealthTap. The two-year contract with the American company that powers SmartHealth cost taxpayers about $14.6m.

The former SmartHealth hub at Waikato Hospital. Photo / Natalie Akoorie

The amount, stated as US$5m [NZ$7.3m] for each year, was revealed for the first time yesterday when the DHB released publicly the HealthTap section of an Audit NZ review.

Waikato DHB has previously kept the cost of the HealthTap contract, which together with the cost to launch SmartHealth totalled $18.8m, a closely guarded secret, citing commercial sensitivity and contract negotiations for not making the details public.

The Audit NZ review, part of an overall report including a section on Murray’s expenses, was highly critical of the way HealthTap was purchased in mid-2015.

Auditors had concerns about the tendering process and business case proposal.

There were also concerns over how potential conflicts of interest had been handled.

“We were informed that the board declared any interests at the beginning of each meeting and management [did so] on a two-weekly basis at management meetings.

“We would have expected to see a positive affirmation being made by those associated with the procurement that they were free from any conflict as good practice.”

The proposal for a virtual health model was presented to and signed off by the board in one month. It has never been made public.

Murray went on to champion the product, spending more than $45,000 flying internationally and domestically to learn about and promote SmartHealth, an app that uses smartphones and iPads to conduct online appointments between doctors and patients.

The app has flopped, not attracting the targeted number of users despite targets being lowered, and is now being independently reviewed ahead of the end of the trial.

Source: NZ Herald


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