The former Wintec chief executive who was on sick leave for six months before vacating the role in March is now jetting off on a long overseas break.

Mark Flowers has defended the trip saying there was a big difference between going overseas to spend time with family and taking part in a complex audit process.

Flowers released a statement in February saying his "ill-health" had stopped him from helping Audit New Zealand with its investigations into overseas spending by himself and other executives.

He was also too sick to work out his notice period.


An investigation by QC Simon Mount cleared Flowers of wrongdoing, saying they were unable to substantiate the majority of the complaints "on the balance of probability".

But less than a month after officially leaving Wintec, the Herald has learnt he and wife Lynette are heading overseas on a three-month tour of Australia.

Flowers confirmed to the Herald the couple was looking forward to visiting their children, granddaughter and a new grandchild who was due last week.

"As I'm sure you'll understand, there is a significant difference between taking part in an extensive and complex audit process while very unwell, and spending much-needed time with family and on my personal wellbeing while I continue my recovery."

Flowers said while his sick leave was confidential, the leave had been approved by Wintec and had been supported by appropriate medical documentation.

He went on sick leave in August 2018 while two independent investigations - one into his overseas spending while on business trips and a second examining historic allegations into his conduct - were being carried out.

He officially resigned from the top job in November last year citing illness and the fact he was soon turning 70. His official last day with the tertiary provider was March 1 2019.

While Flowers was on paid sick leave, acting chief executive David Christiansen was given a pay increase inline with his additional responsibilities.

The remuneration for the Wintec chief executive role in the year-ended June 2017 was between $420,000 and $429,000, according to the Sate Services Commission's senior pay report.

A farewell for the chief executive of 16 years was hosted by Sir William Gallagher at his office in Hamilton last Monday.

It was organised by the businesss and community sector and had nothing to do with Wintec, according to one of the organiser's Gordon Chesterman.

Wintec chairman Barry Harris told the Herald the private event was the only one scheduled for Mark's farewell and there would be no Wintec hosted function.

"... Wintec staff time has been very involved in key events for this busy month, including graduations and responding to the Government's proposed tertiary education reform of the institutes of technology and polytechnics. Mark is also unavailable in the coming weeks, so the timing works best."