By: Natalie Akoorie
Travel expenses for Waikato District Health Board’s executive managers will now be reported to the board each month after the scandal involving unauthorised spending by former chief executive Dr Nigel Murray.
Murray resigned on October 5 after an investigation into his expenses, which the Heraldunderstands to have found spending of taxpayers’ money on women who were not his wife.
Details of the investigation, which the DHB has so far refused to release publicly, are now set to be examined by the Ministry of Health after the Herald revealed the allegations.
Tomorrow board members will hear for the first time details of spending for the past month by 15 senior managers at the DHB, including Murray’s.
Murray’s expenses range from April to June this year and total almost $6000 for the three months.
It includes domestic and international flights and accommodation for meetings about the proposed Waikato Medical School, the DHB’s virtual health app SmartHealth and Pharmac, the Government’s agency, which decides what medicines are subsidised.
The most expensive one-off meeting was with Northland GP Dr Lance O’Sullivan to discuss SmartHealth, which included three nights’ accommodation and return flights to Kaitaia for $1433.
Medical school meetings took Murray to Cairns and Sydney as well as to Wellington, where he presented the case to other district health board chief executives. Those expenses totalled $2392.
One expense of $1084 is simply listed as “CEO activity” and includes four nights’ accommodation in Auckland, in early April.
Other expenses for senior managers in Murray’s executive team show nursing and midwifery chief officer Sue Hayward’s “training related” expenses came in at the next highest on $4198.
Total expenses for the group was $17,843.
Board member Dave Macpherson, who has pushed for transparency since the board started investigatng Murray’s $108,000 expenses in July, welcomed the precedent of publicly recording staff expenses.
“We’ve never had this before. And it’s about time. It’s the correct move. It’s just a pity it hadn’t been done earlier.”
Board member Mary Anne Gill also welcomed the transparency but said it was sad that in the context of a $1.2 billion budget the board had to receive reports on the expenses of DHB executives.
“I would rather trust in the process, which ensures what has happened in the past cannot happen again. That’s what I will continue to be asking at board meetings and of our auditors and chair.”
It’s understood board chairman Bob Simcock will brief the Ministry of Health soon over the allegations Murray spent taxpayer money on flights and accommodation for women.
State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes told the Herald on Friday: “New Zealanders need to have confidence that public servants work to the highest standards of integrity in everything they do.”
The State Services Commission had no jurisdiction over district health boards, he said, but the “allegations raise serious questions about the conduct and integrity of a former State Services employee”.
“It is unacceptable for any public servant to try to use their official position for personal gain.”
The board will hear the expenses tomorrow at its monthly meeting, to be held in Taumarunui.
Source: NZ Herald