The first inkling there was a problem with former Waikato District Health Board chief executive Dr Nigel Murray's expenses came as early as December 2015, the Herald can reveal.

But it was 13 months before the alarm was officially raised with board chairman Bob Simcock, according to details of the timeframe released to the Herald under the Official Information Act.

Murray resigned on October 5 after a Waikato DHB investigation found he overspent on relocation costs and claimed other unauthorised spending, understood to relate to expenses associated with two Canadian women.

A staff member first raised concerns about a potential overspend by Murray on his relocation from Canada with a manager at Christmas time 2015, chief of staff Neville Hablous said in the OIA.


The total cost of Murray's relocation from British Columbia to Hamilton, where he took up the top job in July 2014, was $52,126, despite the agreed allowance being only $25,000.

Part of the overspend, $13,466, was for accommodation at Quest serviced apartments from June to December that year.

Murray's receipts for his three years in the $560,000-a-year job, released by the DHB on November 3 following intense public scrutiny, show the one-bedroom apartment was booked to two adults.

The Herald understands Murray's wife of 31 years, Nicola Murray, was not the other guest.

Other relocation costs included $14,929 for flights and $23,729 for household shipping.

A member of DHB management was aware from around Christmas 2015 that there was a potential overspend of the relocation allowance, Hablous said.

"They were made aware as a result of a discussion with a staff member involved in processing expenses," he said.

"When the matter was not rectified by the chief executive, the manager took a number of actions to try to ensure that it was."


When asked what those actions were, Hablous said he could not elaborate on information that would fall inside the scope of an investigation launched by the State Services Commission (SSC) on Friday.

On December 1 last year the Herald reported State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes was disappointed Murray had not disclosed expenses for his first two years in the role.

It's understood the SSC sent two letters, in August 2015 and 2016, reminding the board Murray's expenses were overdue.

They were finally filed in late January this year and Simcock was advised by a member of Murray's executive team in an email on February 3 about the overspend.

"He met with the chief executive that day to ask for an explanation and received an undertaking the overpayment would be repaid immediately," Hablous said.

On February 8, Simcock told the Herald he was comfortable with Murray's comparatively high $108,000 expenses because the chief executive was doing "legitimate DHB work".

He pointed to the relocation costs, then disclosed as $36,000, as skewing the expenses for that year.

When asked last week why he omitted details around Murray's overspend and the fact he had asked the CEO to pay back some money only five days earlier, Simcock said when he was interviewed by the Herald he assumed Murray had made good on his promise.

But a reimbursement was not made by Murray until three months later on May 18 and he still owes the DHB "less than $50,000" for other unauthorised spending.

Board member Mary Anne Gill said she was unaware until now a manager knew about concerns as early as December 2015 and was appalled the board chair was not told sooner.

"It was at that point the board chair should have been given a heads up by the manager," she said. "Instead he was not told until February 2017 and the full board not until July 2017.

"From a governance point of view, we need to know why it took 14 months for someone to raise it with the board and we also need to trust in a process which ensures this sort of thing doesn't happen again."

Gill said she raised concerns with Simcock over the expenses as soon as she was elected to the board in December last year.

"I was assured it was under control and trusted in the process going forward."