Former Waikato District Health Board chief executive Dr Nigel Murray was allowed to go on leave instead of being suspended when concerns were raised over his spending.

It meant the health board boss still had access to his emails, his computer hard drive and DHB files, as well as the use of a mobile phone and tablet, paid for by taxpayers.

That was in stark contrast to the board's attempts to initially hide the investigation from Murray by forwarding invoices for legal and public relations advice to the Ministry of Health.

Murray spent almost 11 weeks on annual and extended leave after the board launched an investigation into his expenses on July 21 last year.

Advertisement

The investigation by an independent Auckland lawyer, which cost the DHB $155,320, found Murray breached travel policy and overspent by $27,000 on relocation costs from Canada.

A State Services Commission investigation into Murray's spending is ongoing.

Murray spent $218,000 of public money on expenses during his three years in the $560,000 a year job, and in his last year spent a total of six months away from the office travelling for work.

When the board agreed to Murray's resignation on October 5, providing he paid back all outstanding amounts, it ended the investigation and shut the door on disciplinary action.

The resignation also meant details of the unauthorised breaches, contained within the lawyer's report, were kept secret by the DHB because Murray did not respond to findings in the report making it legally fraught for the DHB to release it.

At the time the DHB told the Herald it would not lay a complaint with police over Murray's actions and it would not release details of the lawyer's investigation because the resignation marked the end of the debacle.

"Because Dr Murray resigned, the investigation into his management of expenses was never completed," a spokeswoman said in October.

"There were therefore no findings and the DHB is legally unable to speculate on what the findings might have been had the investigation been completed."

Advertisement
Bob Simcock says the decision to allow Nigel Murray to go on annual leave when Waikato DHB launched an investigation into his spending was based on legal advice. Photo / Christine Cornege
Bob Simcock says the decision to allow Nigel Murray to go on annual leave when Waikato DHB launched an investigation into his spending was based on legal advice. Photo / Christine Cornege

When asked why Murray was not suspended, former board chairman Bob Simcock said all significant decisions made relating to the investigation of the chief executive's expenses were made under legal advice from "one of New Zealand's top employment lawyers".

"The decisions about leave and suspension were made collectively by first the committee responsible for CE performance issues, and then by the whole board," Simcock said.

"Similarly the decision to accept Dr Murray's resignation was made by the board after receiving clear legal advice about the appropriate action to take in the best interests of the DHB."

Current acting chair Sally Webb said Murray was entitled to five weeks annual leave and had accrued a number of weeks that he used to take extended leave in agreement with Simcock.

During his 11 weeks on leave while the investigation took place Murray was paid $148,521.

When he resigned the DHB said he owed less than $50,000, having already paid back about $30,000 in May last year.

An outstanding amount, about $20,000, is currently in dispute with Murray claiming it was legitimate work spend.

Murray does not appear to have made any expense claims during the investigation period however he had full use of a smart phone and tablet at the expense of the DHB.

Those cost $1502 and enabled him to see his emails, the Diligent system at the DHB which holds board and executive agendas and minutes, his own personal drive and all online information available to the whole organisation including the intranet containing policies and procedures, staff news, library and the phone directory.