The Soap Box: Public has right to know what investigation uncovered

Author
Barry Soper,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Friday, 4 August 2017, 5:37AM
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Who watches the watchdog? Well certainly not the media which is unfortunate, given the man charged with keeping tabs on the politicians is dog tucker and we don't know why.

A group of MPs, including most of the parties, have decided in their infinite wisdom to stay shtum when it comes to a report into whether Martin Matthews was up to the job of Auditor General.

The taxpayers have a right to feel aggrieved considering they fork out around 600,000 a year to keep the Auditor General in the style he's accustomed to and they coughed up the three quarters of a million bucks that fraudster Joanne Harrison got away with when she worked for the Transport Ministry, not to mention the money we've now spent on the investigation carried out by a former top public servant into Martin Matthews.

Matthews was head of the Ministry when it was being ripped off by Harrison and had been alerted to it. But rather than doing anything about it, those who raised the alarm, the whistle-blowers, were drummed out of the ministry.

Resigning an hour before the investigation was due to be publicly released he issued a statement saying he wished he'd detected Harrison's criminal activity much earlier which has to be something of an understatement. But he went on to say she gave him explanations that he accepted but it turns out, he admits, he was wrong. Matthews confesses he should have been more suspicious.

With those admissions alone, of course he was unsuitable to continue as Auditor General. In the interests of political transparency though, surely the public has a right to know what the investigation uncovered and it's simply not good enough for the politicians to bury it.

They tell us the findings aren't being released because of the resignation which brought an end to the matter.

This report's being suppressed by the same group of politicians who appointed Matthews to the Auditor General's job in the first place, knowing of the fraud perpetrated when he was in charge of the Transport Ministry. In a highly unusual step the politicians even heard from the Serious Fraud Office over the fraud and his handling of it, before making the appointment, satisfied he was the best man for the job.

Why he clearly wasn't, we'll now never know. The organisation that oversees Parliament, and is now custodian of the report, isn't subject to the Official Information Act.

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