The former Ministry of Transport manager who defrauded the agency of $726,000 has been jailed for 43 months.

Joanne Harrison, 50, was sentenced this afternoon at the Manukau District Court after earlier admitting three charges of dishonestly taking or using a document laid by the Serious Fraud Office.

Judge Sanjay Patel slammed the fraud as "clearly premeditated" but accepted Harrison had shown genuine remorse which he gave her credit for.

The court heard how Harrison, 50, was employed as a general manager at the Ministry in Wellington and was authorised for the spending of public funds.

Advertisement

However, over the course of more than three years Harrison made false invoices to three fake entities to misappropriate the money into her own accounts.

She then used the money to pay off credit-card debts and a mortgage on a house

The court heard how Joanne Harrison made false invoices over the course of three years to three fake entities to misappropriate money into her own accounts.
The court heard how Joanne Harrison made false invoices over the course of three years to three fake entities to misappropriate money into her own accounts.

After Harrison was stood down while her employers investigated, she went to Canada before the SFO laid formal charges.

She returned voluntarily in August last year, was arrested at the airport and has been in custody since.

Prosecutor for the Serious Fraud Office Sarah Allen said any discount for remorse and reparation should be "very modest".

The Crown would be seeking reparations through civil proceedings in the Auckland High Court.

However, Allen said Harrison had "frustrated" those proceedings by transferring the ownership of a property in Waitmate to her ex-husband.

Defence lawyer Nathan Bourke told the court Harrison's remorse was genuine because the decision to return to New Zealand to face the charges was hers.

Advertisement

She'd also undergone counselling and attempted to access her KiwiSaver fund in October to pay reparations which she should be credited for, Bourke said.

"She reached effectively her rock bottom, she lost her job - and I'm not suggesting she's not the author of her own fortune - but she's reached rock bottom."

There would also be "several hundred thousand dollars" that would be made available for the Crown through the civil proceedings.

Judge Patel said "there was clearly premeditation", the lengthy timespan which the offending occurred over, and a level of sophistication.

Harrison also had similar prior offending which he gave an uplift of six months for.

The sentence would need to denounce the "serious offending" and deter others, he said.

However, he accepted Harrison's remorse and gave her a six-month discount for remorse and "a very generous discount" of 25 per cent for her guilty plea.

"I hope that you use your time in prison constructively to ensure there is no offending from you in the future," the judge told Harrison.