Editorial: Elder must front up to MPs over firm's woes

Dr Don Elder. Photo / NZPA
Dr Don Elder. Photo / NZPA

This week's appearance of Solid Energy's new leadership team before a parliamentary select committee was not a particularly illuminating experience. The chairman, Mark Ford, and the interim chief executive, Garry Diack, said they were unable to answer most of the questions directed at them. Which was not unexpected, given the huge influence that Don Elder exercised over the troubled state-owned coal company for 14 years until his resignation on February 4.

Any attempt by the commerce committee to get to the bottom of what went wrong will, clearly, be incomplete unless he appears before it.

Mr Ford said there was no restriction that prevented Dr Elder from speaking. It was, however, unusual for former chief executives to appear before select committees. That may be so, but Dr Elder has not yet severed his links with Solid Energy. He is still working for it as a consultant and is receiving full pay, a situation that will continue until April 1.

On that basis, MPs from all parties should, if necessary, support the issuing of a subpoena that would force Dr Elder to provide his version of events.

Labour's state-owned enterprises spokesman, Clayton Cosgrove, put the issue in a nutshell. Solid Energy maintained that it required access to Dr Elder's knowledge and memory and was, therefore, retaining his services for a short time.

Parliament, Mr Cosgrove noted, needed to be similarly enlightened. So, too, does the taxpayer, given the $389 million of debt accumulated during Dr Elder's watch.

- NZ Herald

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