The Ministry of Transport has launched another investigation into jailed fraudster Joanne Harrison, following allegations from former staff that she had forced them out.
Harrison, a former senior member of the ministry, was sentenced to three years and seven months in jail in February for three counts of dishonesty while using a document.
This new investigation follows the ministry’s release of numerous documents detailing how Harrison defrauded the government of nearly $750,000 and secured jobs for friends and family.
RNZ reports that one friend was given a job at the ministry through Harrison and was on the payroll for 10 months, but never turned up or did any work. The associate was discovered on security cameras trying unsuccessfully to enter the building.
The ministry is now pursuing the former staff member to recover the wages.
“You never report to the office and there is no evidence of you doing any work for us,” then-CEO Martin Matthews wrote to the associate in a document.
Other instances of fraudulent behaviour have been uncovered by the media. It was discovered that Harrison also arranged a job with a $100,000 salary for her husband at the ministry without disclosing their marriage.
Public attention towards the case, pressure from Labour MP Sue Moroney, and new revelations found in the released documents has led CEO Peter Mersi to launch an investigation into allegations made by former staff members that Harrison had suspicious staff forced out of the ministry.
“Senior officials of the ministry accepted that this restructuring resulted in people who had tried to blow the whistle on Harrison, losing their jobs,” Moroney said in March.
“The ministry argued that she was ‘very premeditated’ in her crimes, but this doesn’t answer why in spite of eight warnings she was never stopped until the Auditor General’s Office became involved.”
Mersi told 1News they have learned from Harrison’s long-running fraud.
“We did undertake a number of independent reviews both into her actions and into our systems and processes to ensure that going forward we’re in a position where we’re confident about the way in which our money is spent and the way in which public money is spent,” he said.