22 March, 2018
Waikato DHB investigation findings
A State Services Commission investigation into the expenditure of former Waikato District Health Board chief executive
Dr Nigel Murray found that more than half of his claims for travel and accommodation were unjustified.
State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes said the inquiry, led by John Ombler QSO, had found Dr Murray’s conduct fell
short of what is required of a State sector leader.
On 3 November last year, the Minister of Health requested that the Commissioner investigate the circumstances
surrounding Dr Murray’s expenditure. This followed the Waikato District Health Board’s own internal investigation into
his expenses, which was not completed. Dr Murray resigned on 5 October last year, before the internal investigation
could be finalised.
The investigation found that:
• Dr Murray spent $218,209 of the Waikato DHB’s funding on travel, accommodation and related expenses during his tenure
as chief executive from 21 July 2014 to 5 October 2017
• There were 129 items of expenditure on travel and accommodation during the former chief executive’s tenure
• 59 of the items of expenditure, valued at $101,161, did not meet the Waikato DHB’s standards for appropriate
authorisation as set out in its policies and procedures
• 45 of the items of expenditure, valued at $120,608 were unjustified when measured against the Auditor-General’s
guidelines for such expenditure
• $74,265.04 of the expenditure by Dr Murray was identified by the Waikato DHB as personal expenditure requiring
reimbursement by Dr Murray
• $54,831.98 has been subsequently repaid and $19,434.06 remains in dispute
• More than half of Dr Murray’s travel and accommodation (by cost) was unjustified, and about half was unauthorised or
had authorisation deficiencies.
• On the issue of his relocation expenses, Dr Murray contravened both the agreement made in his letter of offer and the
Waikato DHB policy on staff travel and accommodation
“The inquiry found Dr Murray’s conduct fell well short of what is required of a State sector leader,” said Mr Hughes. “I
have accepted all of Mr Ombler’s findings.
“It found Dr Murray made significant claims for reimbursement of travel and accommodation expenditure that were outside
the DHB’s policies and spent public money on travel and accommodation without authorisation, which led to serious and
sustained breaches of the State Sector Code of Conduct.
“The investigation report shows Dr Murray spent public monies on private travel and made claims for the reimbursement of
expenses he was not entitled to claim for. As the Chief Executive he should have known better. He was supposed to be
setting an example for his organisation.
“While Dr Murray’s conduct did not meet the standards expected in the State sector it is not the role of this inquiry to
determine whether there was any criminal wrong-doing. That is why I have referred the investigation report to the
Serious Fraud Office.”
The investigation also found governance was wanting at the Waikato DHB. The Board did not carry out the normal checks
and balances expected at a big public sector organisation, which allowed Dr Murray’s unauthorised and unjustified
expenditure to continue for too long without being addressed.
The former Chair’s oversight of Dr Murray’s expenses lacked the rigour and standard of care expected. The former Chair
retrospectively approved 20 of Dr Murray’s travel applications, and, at least 42 of the total travel applications
approved by the Chair had no or inadequate evidence of business purpose.
“The investigation found the former Chair was too trusting of Dr Murray. And Dr Murray let the Chair down,” said Mr
Mr Hughes says while the Board acted with good advice and urgency to address the growing concern about Dr Murray’s
conduct, the inquiry found the Board should not have allowed him to resign rather than face disciplinary action.
“The Board put pragmatism ahead of principle and the public interest,” Mr Hughes said.
“That was not the right thing to do. This meant Dr Murray did not have to answer for his conduct. And that was wrong.
“Serious allegations ought to be fully determined wherever possible, so that either a person’s name is cleared or they
are held publicly to account for their actions. Public accountability and transparency is essential to maintaining
public trust and confidence.
“If Dr Murray was employed by me I would have terminated his employment based on what I have seen.”
On the issue of Dr Murray’s initial recruitment, the inquiry found the Board had failed to undertake a check with a
previous employer. It should have done so. If they had checked with his current employer in Canada it would have raised
a red flag. That did not mean Dr Murray would not have been employed but the Board should have the fullest information
in making an appointment.
“It is good that our public health system model brings commercial disciplines and expertise but DHBs are public
organisations run by public servants using taxpayers’ money to deliver public services to New Zealanders,” Mr Hughes
“Effective public organisations like DHBs need to have the trust and confidence of New Zealanders, and that means
working to the highest standards.”
As set out at paragraph 58 of the report, Dr Murray’s legal representative requested that a letter setting out Dr
Murray’s position be included with the report. The material contained in that letter has been appropriately addressed by
Mr Ombler during the process.
In accordance with SSC’s commitments to open and transparent government and in compliance with the Privacy Act 1993, the
statement received has been included alongside the report and supporting material and can be read with it. In order to
provide the full context, a letter to Dr Murray’s legal representative in response has also been included.