A senior Ministry of Transport manager who allegedly stole more than $700,000 of taxpayers' money has appeared in court but has not yet entered a plea.

Joanne Harrison, 50, was arrested at Auckland Airport when she returned from a trip overseas and was charged with three counts of dishonestly taking or using a document laid by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

She appeared in the Manukau District Court this morning via an audio visual link from Auckland Women's Prison where she is in custody.

Harrison was set to enter a plea but was not able to because her lawyer wasn't present at the hearing. She has been remanded in custody until her next appearance on August 26th.


Originally from Glasgow, Harrison worked as a manager at the Ministry of Transport from April 2011 until this year when she was stood down.

Following questions raised by the ministry's management team, an internal investigation found that suspicious payments had been made to various entities and the matter was referred to the SFO.

The office allege the Ministry of Transport paid approximately $726,000 to entities associated with Ms Harrison.

During her time with the ministry, Harrison's role included responsibility for change, people and development; communication and external relations; administration and ministerial support; knowledge management and information and the shared services programme management, the SFO said in a statement.