A former Ministry of Transport manager has pleaded guilty to defrauding the agency of $726,000.

Joanne Harrison, 50, today pleaded guilty to three counts of dishonestly taking or using a document laid by the Serious Fraud Office.

She appeared in Manukau District Court dressed in a pink fleece jumper and was permitted to sit throughout the proceedings.

She will be sentenced next month and has been remanded in custody.

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Harrison was a manager at the ministry from April 2011 until this year when management discovered approximately $726,000 in payments to various entities associated with Harrison.

The matter was referred to the SFO.

After the offending came to light, Harrison was stood down but she was Canada at that time.

However, she came back to New Zealand voluntarily and was charged on her return. She first appeared in court on August 8.​