The concerns around senior Labour Cabinet Minister Nanaia Mahuta and her extended family connections have been an oscillating undercurrent to the Government for some time.
On Wednesday, the concerns crested again and the Government finally relented and called for a review.
While National Party spokesman for Public Services Simeon Brown first requested the commission investigate the matter in August, most people will be aware of the allegations circulating for much longer in social media threads and right-wing blogs.
The Herald has attempted to get to the bottom of the swirling rumours, notably in a series of stories by Kate McNamara about five contracts awarded to Mahuta's husband Gannin Ormsby's company, or an associated one, the most recent on Tuesday about a Kāinga Ora contract.
Ormsby specialises in running consultation hui. It is a talent in high demand as every Government agency is directed to consult with Māori over important policies.
Specifically, Leader of the House Chris Hipkins has now asked Hughes to look into the management of apparent or perceived conflicts of interest by four government departments in awarding contracts to Ormsby's business interests, Ka Awatea Services (KAS) and Kawai Catalyst.
A series of government contracts worth more than $200,000 (excluding GST) were awarded to two consultancies - KAS, wholly owned by Gannin Ormsby, and Kawai Catalyst, owned by Ormsby's nephew and his wife (Tamoko and Waimirirangi Ormsby) - in late 2020 and early 2021.
The Minister has consistently denied any wrongdoing but perception is a big player in politics.
In previously addressing the allegations, Mahuta has pointed out the potential that racism may be behind some of the accusations.
Speaking to Jack Tame on Q&A in July, Mahuta said any conflicts of interest arising during her time as a minister had been declared and managed appropriately in accordance with the cabinet manual.
The "toxicity" of the attacks on her had been "really challenging", she said, noting some people seem to find it difficult to accept a "Māori woman in a space where it isn't always easy".
Hipkins also raised the issue this week in the House when citing another politician once linked to questionable family ties, and asking rhetorically whether that instance was okay because they were "white".
Mahuta presents as a wahine, rightfully proud of her heritage and her standing in te ao Māori. If some find that confronting, it is their failing, not hers. On the other side of the coin, to allege a breach of the Cabinet Manual is not, in and of itself, racist. Genuine inquiries should not be dismissed by playing the card.
Mahuta is no novice Foreign Affairs and Local Government Minister and will know the Cabinet Manual rules, having previously held portfolios including trade, Customs, Māori affairs, and youth development. She continues to have the trust of the Government and should also have the benefit of the doubt as an honourable minister.
In this small nation, it is not unusual for family ties to overlap, particularly in areas where skillsets have traditionally been in short supply. The questions are about the contracts with the Ministry for the Environment, Kainga Ora, Te Puni Kokiri and the Department of Conservation, and how they were managed - especially given that Mahuta was an associate minister for three of the agencies at the time contracts were awarded: for Environment, Kāinga Ora and Te Puni Kōkiri.
It is time for the disinfectant of sunlight and Hughes needs to quickly and rigorously conduct this review. Hughes will also look across the broader public service to see if other cases exist, how any conflicts of interest were managed, and whether proper processes were followed.
There must be no doubt as to whether these accusations - whatever their motivations - have any substance at all. Any scent of corrupt practice should be tracked and aired.
Once done, the Government must either escalate to a formal inquiry or swiftly move on from what has been a niggling but serious distraction.