Mahuta cleared of wrongdoing, agencies' processes flawed - report

The Public Service Commission has found two government agencies failed to manage perceived conflicts of interest in relation to two companies connected to Nanaia Mahuta.

Commissioner Peter Hughes undertook a review of public service agencies' managed conflicts of interest in relation to Ka Awatea Services (KAS) and Kawai Catalyst (KC).

The review asked all public service agencies to look at whether they had entered into any contracts with KAS, KC, or with any of the directors of those companies since October 2017. Only four agencies were found to have had such contracts: Te Puni Kōkiri, the Ministry for the Environment, Kāinga Ora and the Department of Conservation.

Looking at those four agencies, the review found:

  • Te Puni Kōkiri and the Ministry for the Environment failed to properly identify and manage perceived conflicts because they didn't follow what were otherwise sound agency policies and processes.
  • a minor perceived conflict with Kāinga Ora was not identified because the agency failed to ask about conflicts of interest during the contracting process.
  • there were no conflicts of interest in relation to Department of Conservation contracts but its contract management was poor.

Some practices fell short

The review found conflict management and procurement practices at all four agencies "fell short of the standards expected" of public service agencies.

The review found no evidence of favouritism, bias, or undue influence over agency decisions in relation to KAS or KC due to any connection with a Minister. KAS is directed by Mahuta's husband Gannin Ormsby and Tamoko and Waimirirangi Ormsby. Tamoko and Waimirirangi are also directors of Kāwai Catalyst.

However, Public Service Commissioner Peter Hughes said that while there was no evidence of bias, the agencies’ failure to ask about perceived conflicts – and manage them –could damage public confidence.

“Poorly managed perceived conflicts of interest can be just as damaging to public trust and confidence as poorly managed actual conflicts of interest,” he said.

Mahuta this morning, before the findings were released said she was looking forward to the outcome.

"I initiated that because I was concerned with the way government departments were dealing with those matters," she said.

"I do believe I have (acted appropriately in managing conflicts of interest) and I welcome the findings of the report."

Public Interest Journalism