By Lucy Bennett
A review by the State Services Commission of questions raised in Parliament has cleared former Counties Manukau District Health Board chief executive Stephen McKernan of any conflict of interest.
State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes initiated a review into questions raised by National MP Jami-Lee Ross in Parliament last month. The review was carried out by the State Services Commission’s (SSC) chief legal officer Andrew Royle.
Ross raised issues about McKernan and the management of a possible conflict of interest when McKernan was acting Director-General of Health from February to June this year. A specific concern was whether Health Minister David Clark was advised of any potential conflict, Hughes said in a statement.
“I have found nothing in the concerns Mr Ross has raised that causes me to be critical of Mr McKernan or any decisions and actions he made while acting Director-General of Health,” said Mr Hughes.
“That is not the case here. The questions that were raised, and the manner in which they were raised, cast doubt on the integrity of a well-respected former public servant. This is regrettable. I have a responsibility to correct that. This report settles the matter.”
Ross questioned whether McKernan had oversight of, or made any decisions, regarding a Ministry of Health review into a number of decisions made at Counties Manukau DHB.
McKernan was chief executive of the DHB from 2002-2006. The ministry review was established before McKernan became acting Director-General of Health.
“Mr McKernan is highly regarded in the health sector and returned for a short stint as Director-General of Health from a desire to continue to provide public service. I thank him for his service,” Hughes said.
“The only decisions that Mr McKernan made relating to the progress of the Ministry of Health review were to ensure that people that could be affected by it were properly advised and had an opportunity to comment.
“The key decisions on scope were made prior to his arrival, and the review has not yet reported back and therefore no decisions have been made on next steps. The fact that Mr McKernan was acting Director-General between February and June 2018 has had no material impact on the ministry’s review.”
Hughes said the ministry should be allowed to get on and complete its review into decisions taken at Counties Manukau DHB. The review was initiated following a DHB audit report. The review into these matters started in mid-2017 and the work is understood to be well advanced.